Strategies for University Research: a European Comparison Dr. Sybille Reichert Presentation for the IUQB 4th Annual International Conference, Advancing Research in Ireland Dublin 6 May 2006
Background and Methodology • Lisbon agenda and competition of knowledge economies • Trends IV study on implementations of Bologna reforms in Europe raised question of impact of educational reforms on research profile and vice versa, and showed that only one third of 62 universities had a research strategy, only one quarter had one known beyond orbit of institutional leadership • EUA commissioned follow-up study focussing on research strategy development and implementation • 10 European research intensive universities which had research strategies were visited, interviews with different groups from rector to junior professors, on reasons for developing strategy, contents and scope, process and supporting instruments • Analysed against background of Trends IV and data strategy management literature
Why do European Universities Develop Research Strategies? • Awareness of international competition: research has to be internationally visible to stand a chance; to be internationally visible has to be well positioned. One can only be leading in a few areas • Tougher competition for national resources, from HEA, funding authorities: you have to strengthen your strenghts and have critical mass • Research costs are rising, expensive scientific infrastructure and competitive conditions means you can only invest in some • New partnerships require sense of what areas/ strengths you stand for • Increased need to emphasise economic/ social relevance of university research: definition of themes around social problems • National/ regional authorities, funding agencies ask for strategic & institutional embedding
What do the strategies contain? (1/2) • Internal procedures/ incentives to reward and increase quality performance,(often after evaluation by peers), create attractive conditions for the best to come • Prioritised thematic areas in which universities have outstanding strengths and critical mass: centres of excellence • Fostering consortia, larger research groups/centers to increase visibility, to address fragmentation through specialisation – researchers: don‘t force interdisciplinarity • Intensified partnerships with regional authorities and businesses, extension of innovation activities of univ.
What do the strategies contain? (2/2) • Technology platforms and enhanced planning/ use of costly scientific infrastructure • Increase external grant income, enhance of research support services • Research and graduate training: • Number of PhD students, number of post-docs • Internationalisation of graduate offer, joint degrees, programmes in English • Quality of graduate training, from mentoring to integration in graduate schools
Strategy Development: The Process • Space for individuals‘ ideas and innovation valued highly: instruments and process reflect this attention (competitive internal research funds for emerging areas, reserach council to review ideas) • „Strategic management“ rather than „strategic planning“ • Process is different according to the types of strat. aims: • For scientific areas elaborate process up and down the institutional levels • For other overarching aims (innovation targets, research service and conditions, graduate training guidelines/ framework, resource allocation models) more top-down
Strategic Process depends upon versions of three kinds of basic assumptions • The individualistic motor of scientific innovation. The most innovative ideas are always born in the mind of individuals who have always been and will always be the most important motors of innovation. Thus university leaders should never presume that they are able to prescribe which areas lend themselves to institutional prioritisation. • The increasing group factor of scientific innovation. An increasing number of scientific questions can only be tackled by research groups, often interdisciplinary. • The balance between long term perspectives and relevance for society. Universities derive their institutional uniqueness from the dominance of a long term perspective on all contents which they explore. At the same time universities should produce research results and perspectives which help society tackle its large and most pressing problems.
Steering of Researchers‘ Initiatives high low
Nation. / Reg. Context Filter on the basis of quality (peer review), priorities • Support for individual projects • Support consortia/ cluster formation, centers of excellence, interdisciplinary groups • Support projects in prioritised areas of national strengths or particular socio-econ. relevance • Graduates research exp. • Research outputs • Innovation outputs • visible res. strengths • partnerships with ext. knowledge actors & stakeholders Individual and Group Projects Knowledge creation, social development, economic innovation, human growth Institutional or Indivudal Visibility & Compet. Advant. Indiv. Idea Research University Incentives • Seed money for nascent projects and emerging areas • Support consortia/ cluster formation, centers of excellence • Support projects in prioritised areas of institutional strengths or particular socio-econ. relevance
Conclusions • Universities with Research Strategies conduct Strategic Management rather than Strategic Planning: not the plan but the implemented strategic actions count. Academic leadership (incl. strong communicative talents) central sucess factor. • At the institutions visited, national and regional contexts promote strategy building at universities. • In house resistance to strategy development declines with advancement (unless to many strategies have to be developed). • The individual continues to be at the heart of university attention. • Major trend of consortialisation, strategies try to reinforce formation of major groups, critical mass, centers of excellence. • Some regions play a crucial supportive role. Potential of regions not to be underestimated.