Abstracts: Balancing the needs and expectations of society with the autonomy of institutions


Knowledge as Public Property: The Societal Relevance of Scientific Research

Lead Speaker: Lex Bouter, Rector, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands


Universities are funded by public means to a large extend. It’s reasonable to expect that society benefits from the results. For scientific research this means that it should at least have a potential societal impact. Universities and individual investigators must explicitly consider the societal relevance of their research activities. And also report on it explicitly. Core questions are: ‘Do we do the right things?’ and ‘Do we do them right?’ This implies that next to indicators of scientific quality, attention should be given to indicators of societal relevance. This dual aim is placed in the context of current evaluation practices of academical research. A proposal for 12 indicators of societal relevance is formulated, focussing on both social-cultural value and economic value. Examples given mainly concern the health and life sciences. The paper ends by discussing the central challenges in evaluating the societal relevance of scientific research.

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Balancing the needs and expectations of society with the autonomy of higher education institutions

Panellist Speaker: Wendy Purcell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Plymouth, UK


Traditionally, universities are seen as places of learning and research.  For many years these autonomous institutions could be perceived as ‘ivory towers’, slightly removed from the responsibilities of society, with researchers and lecturers working towards the greater good and the pursuit of knowledge and learning for the sake of knowing.  Over the last few years, many studies in the UK have acknowledged that higher education institutions are worth far more to their regions and nationally contribute almost £45 billion to the economy, providing direct employment for over 600,000 people.  So, in this modern age, what are society’s needs and expectations of higher education needs? How are universities shifting to address them? How can we balance society’s needs with the autonomy of higher education institutions? When making such a large contribution to the regional and national economy how can we deliver to our stakeholder communities? Professor Purcell addresses these questions, using her role as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth to provide a regional context and providing key examples from her institution that is carving out its niche as the enterprise university.

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Panellist Speaker: Joan Landeros, Director, Centre for Inter National Education, Universidad La Salle, Mexico

Abstract forthcoming



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