Introduction to the theme

Innovation and Governance in Higher Education and Research

“We are living in a time characterized by the rise of the information society in its diverse reality.” Castells & Himanen, 2004

The information, or knowledge, society is transforming the landscape in which higher education institutions operate. The knowledge society depends for its economic growth and social welfare on innovation, i.e. the production of new knowledge, its transmission through education and training, its dissemination through information and communication technologies, and on its use through new industrial processes or services. Universities are unique, in that they take part in all these processes due to the key role they play in the areas of research and the exploitation of its results; education and training; and regional and local development.

Consequently, the theme of innovation and governance has become important in recent higher education and research debates, as marked by the Lisbon strategy and the Bologna declaration. There are two debates intertwined here. On the one hand the debate surrounding the crucial role that higher education institutions play in the developing knowledge economy and the question, what structural changes are necessary to strengthen this role of higher education. On the other hand the debate concerning shifts in the governance of higher education, emphasising their multi-level and multi-actor characteristics and their impact on the transformation of higher education systems. These shifts in governance are partly in response to the knowledge society, but also to the increasing globalisation of higher education.

Both debates share a focus on innovation and governance. They raise the issue which systems of governance are suitable for higher education systems and institutions that are able to deal with far-reaching social and economic developments in order to contribute scientific, technological, social and cultural innovations. Obviously, these debates on innovation and governance are not uniquely European; they are world-wide phenomena, ranging across continents and across developed and developing countries.

The CHEPS summer school 2004 will focus on these issues. It will seek to increase the understanding of the mutual nexus between innovation and governance for higher education systems around the world.