University Research Management: Developing Research in New Institutions

 

Executive SummaryTable of ContentsHow to Order

It is widely accepted that higher education in the 21st century across the OECD is operating in a changed and challenging environment. The last decades have witnessed an explosion around the world in the number and type of higher education providers. New higher education institutions (HEIs) have been established under the auspices of both public and private benefactors to meet broad socio-economic and political objectives. This is in contrast to older universities, which had primarily served as the breeding ground for the elite. 

However, new HEIs are facing many challenges associated with their status. As higher education systems, nationally and internationally, become more competitive, barriers to entry are also rising. Governments are asking how higher education can be restructured to be a more efficient economic driver. Students and their parents are also making more demands. Defining research and measuring its output has become a somewhat controversial issue, as questions are being asked about which institutions should do research and what kind of research they should do. How are higher education institutions responding to these challenges and trying to shape their future?

Given the increasing competitiveness and greater geo-political significance of higher education and research, and the under-developed profile of many new HEIs, this study seeks to examine the processes and strategies being devised by new HEIs to grow research. By focusing on new HEIs, this book provides a unique profile of the experiences of a group of institutions that has hitherto been unidentified and unexplored. It analyses results drawn from an in-depth study of twenty-five HEIs from across sixteen countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong China, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Publication Date: 12/10/2005
ISBN: 926400694X
214 pages


Executive Summary

This international study investigates the processes and strategies being pursued by new higher education institutions across OECD and non-OECD countries to develop research. It has three objectives: 1) to provide guidance for institutional decision-making about the strategic management and organisational issues and challenges required to grow research capability and capacity; 2) to make recommendations for institutions and policymakers to enhance the participation of all higher education institutions (HEIs) as partners in a nationally balanced socio-economic strategy; and 3) to focus specifically on higher education institutions established post-1970, henceforth referred to as new HEIs. The book identifies some of the main issues and challenges facing new HEIs, and discusses how they are being addressed. A number of key questions are pertinent to this investigation:


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

It is widely accepted that higher education in the 21st century across the OECD is operating in a changed and challenging environment. The emergence of a global knowledge-based or information society is dramatically transforming the modes of production and social organisation of advanced societies. Knowledge and the creation of new knowledge are now perceived as the essential generators of material benefit for individuals and nations in much the same way that agriculture, manufacturing or capital were previously. There is a more clear understanding of the innovation process with its dynamic links between the production of new knowledge, knowledge transfer and economic performance; knowledge has become a commodity. Not surprising in this scenario, national governments are now purposively attaching much greater strategic importance to capacity-building decisions and investment. Policy focus is increasingly on resource allocation for research and development, the formation of human/intellectual capital through education and training, the necessary management and institutional arrangements (intellectual property and producer services), and the ability to “capture and apply these intellectual products” Indeed, this strategic focus and resulting expenditure are now seen as critical to national geo-political positioning. Today, the production and dissemination of knowledge, often referred to as research and development, is viewed as a public asset.


Chapter 2. New Higher Education Institutions

There is little dispute amongst policy-makers or in the literature that the post-World War Two (WW2) post-Sputnik era ushered in a period of rapid and tremendous change in higher education structures, provisions and demand across almost all OECD countries. Indeed, the import of these changes has been marked by terms such as massification, democratisation, diversification, harmonisation, internationalisation and globalisation. Several factors are pointed to, including the economic and demographic boom, the significance of scientific discovery, the heightened importance of educational attainment and career opportunity, the birth and subdivision of academic disciplines and the professionalisation of academic careers. A combination of domestic and external pressures and actors, including the active engagement of supranational agencies such as the EEC/EU, OECD, UNESCO and World Bank have played a part in fostering these changes. Between WW2 and the late 1970s, the number and type of students seeking higher education accelerated rapidly alongside the number of academic and support staff, and public investment. 


Chapter 3. Research Mission and Culture

All participant HEIs claim that developing research capacity and capability are key to both their institutional mission and to their survival as an institution. Many new institutions were established with a strong regional economic remit. They were required to focus on local and regional needs, and specifically to develop and help “retain an educated manpower in the area”. To meet this objective, their role was originally viewed as “teaching only” with a specific commitment to relevant knowledge and applied learning. Some were allowed to undertake limited research activity, but often with an emphasis (only) on development and consultancy. However, over time, and commensurate with the global significance of the knowledge-economy, the participant HEI’s commitment to providing “economically useful skills with industrial relevance” and ensuring that “academic activities are aligned with the economic development of their region”has become inextricably bound to offering advanced qualifications and growing research capacity. In other words, research is viewed as essential to improving and sustaining the quality of degree teaching – in other words, the research informs teaching argument.


Chapter 4. Research Management, Organisation and Funding

Global change and institutional diversification are forcing many institutions to assess their strengths in order to seek competitive advantage. At the same time, research disciplines are evolving, and demands for research relevance and outputs are changing and growing. Government core funding to institutions is being matched by demands for increased accountability. These forces are changing the ways institutions organise and manage themselves. In line with the general trend towards strategic planning, higher education institutions are actively setting priorities to help shape what they should do, not simply what they can or are best equipped to do. But not all strategies are equal or experiences transferable and any major plan must also be realistic. All higher education institutions have histories and traditions, and limited resources. Thus, priority-setting seeks the optimal use of scarce resources (financial, human and physical), by aligning institutional competencies with the external environment and national aspirations. It endeavours to distinguish between competing sets of priorities. There is also a need to balance existing capability with potential, in other words priorities need to be shaped not just by current successes but also future possibilities.


Chapter 5. Human Resources

While higher education institutions are busy encouraging the formation of teams of researchers, there is no getting away from the fact that research is ultimately dependent upon individuals. Institutions or departments with high research activity and performance are generally populated by individuals with intellectual curiosity and high career motivation, who are eager to undertake research and to interact with others. Yet, many participant HEIs and commentators describe how the development of a research strategy and identification of priorities has given rise to tensions, human relations and industrial relations issues. Likewise, the daily routine of the academic is undergoing change. New expectations about academic employment are influencing academic workload, tenure, salary, career and promotion considerations, creating challenges for and anxiety amongst faculty. There are growing gaps between national and institutional expectations for research, “the research aspirations of staff [faculty] and the resources available to support research across the institution”. Growing research is not without human costs.


Chapter 6. Challenges for Institutions

Conventional wisdom about economic development and growth has argued that the free operation of markets leads to the efficient and rational use of productive resources of capital and labour. In this scenario, underdevelopment, at a national level, is generally believed to arise from structural or other difficulties within the country itself because the external environment (the wider or global economy) is not acknowledged as problematic. According to this view, the market works best when there is least interference by supra-government, government or other policymakers. Any country or individual can participate by seeking to trade or set up business, but the market can be a tough, self-regulating “winner-takeall” environment. However, efficient countries, individuals, companies and institutions, responsive to demand, can excel and survive successfully. There may be difficulties along the way but growth is generally viewed as progressing in a linear pattern.


Chapter 7. Challenges for Government

While many of the difficulties cited by new HEIs may not be unique to them, many of the participants expressed the view that policy instruments are explicitly or implicitly being used to reinforce the position of established institutions. There is a strong belief that government policy appears to favour these institutions, that the criteria and rules for research funding are antipathetic to new disciplines and new HEIs, that insufficient regard is given to the needs of late-developers or newcomers, and that government policy facilitates operational differentiation.


Chapter 8. Conclusion

The nexus between higher education and research has been one of the unwritten rules since Humboldt first conceived the “unity of teaching and research as the centrepiece of his new idea of a university”. Since then several models of the relationship have developed, with the French promoting a pre-Humboldtian systemic divide between teaching and research. This debate has become heated in recent decades. Some people argue, inter alia, for the coexistence of such activities as the best way to ensure knowledge transfer or based upon the dynamics of the global knowledge economy/society and the public good, while others argue for their increasing incompatibility based on differences in capacity and capability, quality, working conditions and needs or constraints of the public, the institutional and/or national financial purse. While this particular debate is not the subject of this book, the role of research lies at the heart of almost every discussion about higher education.


 

 


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