Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Towards Entrepreneurial Universities: A Triadic Schema.

As Knowledge Societies become the rule rather than the exception, and their National Innovation Systems as their prime development mover, the HE systems as a whole, and the Universities as key players, become the main knowledge producers and transfer apparatus.

The success of Entrepreneurial Universities in its new and larger role in industrial innovation is conditioned by the proper alignment of research and graduate education with socio-economic development.

The above configuration is possible unless a modern vision and a proper strategy is formulated and acted upon to orchestrate all elements and parties in the most efficient manners. This is where a Strategic Triadic Schema plan is proposed.

The proposed strategic plan is a three levels, three components schema. While the strategy doesn’t one-to-one fit Burton R. Clark irreducible five elements minimum, it does respond to the present pressing needs of the Tunisian HES and mainly its Universities. Nevertheless, the above three components are made to include the main sub-elements of the latter minimum. The proposed three components three levels schema is:

C1. Graduate Education and Research Training Quality,
C2. Focused Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Projects,
C3. Research Funding Efficiency and the Entrepreneurial University.

In what follows the objectives and actions for each component will be elucidated along with the addressed minimum elements. This structure will necessarily yield repetitions of the latter elements.

C1: Graduate Education and Research Training Quality:
Tunisia has the ambition to enhance and enforce the Undergraduate Educational system. Thus, our proposition comes to consolidate this pressing undertaking by focusing on Graduate Education and University Research. While these two latter components are the key knowledge producers for any NIS, they are also the main provider of qualified manpower, be it faculty and/or researchers for universities and research centers, or engineers and technicians for the industry. Some of the key issues that need to be addressed in this part are:

i. Teaching and research relationship and quality: delivering excellence
ii. Evaluation and accreditation of programs: towards students/industry satisfaction and international recognition
iii. Strengthening institutional support for faculty while reducing bureaucracy

C2: Focused Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Projects:
While the first point tackles the basic component of the Graduate Higher Educational stratum, this second component comes as a complexifying apparatus allowing Tunisian Universities to network with performing international institutions via its faculty and staff, to have a first hand feel of the on going research activities and the related pedagogical and administrative procedures. This component should encourage the following:

i. Innovative and/or interdisciplinary research projects: high value-added outcomes,
ii. Graduate students co-advising: exchanging successful research practices,
iii. Faculty/students exchange: getting to know the other.

While the Quality part of the project will most certainly concentrate on the adaptation of good practices, this face-to-face collaboration will allow all parties to acknowledge the specificity of each system and thus maximize the success and transfer of best practices. Moreover, in this networked knowledge world, this step will most certainly uncover potentials otherwise unsuspected.

C3: Research Funding Efficiency and the Entrepreneurial University:
The “third-mission” of universities, in addition to teaching and research, is economic development. The precise shape this mission might take influences greatly its outcome. In order to maximize the benefits of such a mission the Entrepreneurial University should be innovative, cost effective and creative transfer agent. This new paradigm will succeed unless the following elements are addressed:

i. Reshaping governance: adapting proved practices,
ii. Moving towards more autonomy: planning a gradual strategy,
iii. Efficient and diversified funding: adapting good practices while maximizing returns.

Appropriate funding along with a diversified base is a necessary condition for the survival of universities and their success. Thought the Tunisian HES has achieved some success, it is still catching-up as to the most recent and suitable practices especially in view of the unemployment of university degree holders. Therefore, this part will play a major role in shaping the overall Innovation-led sustainable national/regional growth strategy.

Burton R., Clark, "Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organizational Pathways of Transformation (Issues in Higher Education),"
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, October 1, 2001.