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Research Strategy Development at European Universities: Challenges and Opportunities Dr. Sybille Reichert Universidad de Barcelona, 6 June 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Research Strategy Development at European Universities: Challenges and Opportunities Dr. Sybille Reichert Universidad de Barcelona, 6 June 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Research Strategy Development at European Universities: Challenges and Opportunities Dr. Sybille Reichert Universidad de Barcelona, 6 June 2007

2 Structure of Presentation  Why worry about research strategies?  EUA Study: Background and methodologies  The challenges for European research intensive universities  Their strategies to address these challenges  Focus on enhancing doctoral training as key strategic concern  The process and underlying assumptions of Strategic Development

3 Why worry about Research Strategies? Moving from reactive to proactive attitudes  Identifiying or foreseeing developments  Overtaking average speed of developments  Shaping developments, setting the agenda  In reference to which developments? –Scientific –Technological –Market /competitive position –Society and its needs (aging soc., level of education and talent distribution, energy crisis), global social developments  Creating attractive research environments  Inciting new research and prioritising promising research groups/ areas

4 EUA commissioned study by S. Reichert on Research Strategy Development: 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

5 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  National/ regional authorities, funding agencies ask for strategic & institutional embedding  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

6 The Main Challenges for Research Intensive Universities in Europe

7 Challenge1: Closing the gap in scientific production

8 Challenge 2: Research Training – Less of a problem with the number of doctoral degrees Doctoral S&E Degrees by World Region All U.S Europe Asia U.S. Citizen

9 … than with researcher career opportunities

10 … and with the lack of business careers for researchers: cf. Distribution of Researchers over Sectors

11 Doctoral Studies abroad as a first step towards brain drain

12 Innovation Gap

13 Innovation Lag in Spain Source: European Innovation Scoreboard 2006

14 Increasing Need for International Skills for Researchers inside and outside of Academia

15 How do European Research- intensive Universities address these challenges?

16 Strategy development at which level?  National: research funds, definition of programmes, infrastructure, framework conditions  Regional: supporting and networking knowledge institutions  Institutional: strategic funds for new developments, for attracting talent, for creating critical mass, enhancing competitiveness and visibility  Departmental: identifying promising areas and individuals and supporting them in their initiatives  Interdepartmental: building and using the right channels of communication to allow and promoting res. at exciting interfaces  Individual: making use of space and resources to develop most forward looking ideas


18 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.

19 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

20 Example: Strategic Aim to Enhance the Quality of Doctoral Training – the number one reform issue all over Europe

21 Example Doctoral Training: Factors hindering attractiveness of doctorate training  length of doctorate studies: –delayed entry into labour market and professional life –delayed individual economic/social returns –uncertainty regarding successful completion, attrition rate  Varied quality of supervision and high degree of dependence on supervisor  specialisation – little attention to career prospects and frequent labour market mismatch, not enough attention to subject- specific and transferable competences and skills  Insufficient recognition of worth of doctoral degree among employers  lack of funding and social security  personal/family dependencies and effects  isolation academically and sometimes socially

22 The most frequently mentioned aims of the doctoral reforms in Europe  Enhancing quality (supervision, mentoring, support, financial and framework conditions, duration)  Increasing relevance and career attention in view of diversified research-based career paths (UK, Ireland, Sweden) – competences and skills  Linking doctoral training to centers of research excellence (with sufficient critical mass) (Finland, Netherlands, Germany)  Increasing interdisciplinary and social integration  Enhancing international attractiveness of research environment  Establishing doctoral or graduate programmes and schools to support all of the above aims

23 First and foremost: Enhancing Quality of Graduate Supervision  Supervisor supplemented by team, additional contact points, possibility of complaints, peer pressure among professors  Ensure appropriate research expertise „At least one member of the supervisory team will be currently engaged in research in the relevant discipline(s), so as to ensure that the direction and monitoring of the student's progress is informed by up to date subject knowledge and research developments.“ (UK Code of Good Practice)  Ensure appropirate advisory (pedagogic) ability „All supervisors need appropriate expertise for their role. They will wish, and institutions will require them, to engage in development of various kinds to equip them to supervise students.[…] Institutions will expect existing supervisors to demonstrate their continuing professional development.“ (UK Code of Good Practice)  Responsibilities and expectations of supervisors and doctoral candidates clearly communicated through written guidance/ contract and in the induction process

24 Building Graduate or Doctoral Schools  Long debate in Germany, Nordic Countries (since early 90ies), with new structures being introduced through funding agencies  Mixed aims: –support and better integration of research perspectives and opportunities for exchange –Higher degree of selection, transparent recruitment and admission criteria –Link to research profile of institution, method of institutional positioning  Different models and aims (doctoral programmes vs. PhD programmes with Master phase integrated),

25 Different Types of Graduate Schools

26 Crucial: Enhancing relation of researh training to institutional profile and internationally visible research strengths  Addressing controversial issues of critical mass for excellence / centers of excellence / common offer between several institutions / common infrastructure  Doctoral training, programmes or schools, with coherent quality control, selection and supervision procedures supported by committees  Designing doctoral training modules (subject-specific and transferable) for all doctoral provision? Which ones should be offered centrally, when is a subject perspective needed?  Institutional merit-based grants, supporting excellent graduate programmes: decisions by whom, research commission?  How to encourage areas with development potential which are not yet internationally competitive?

27 Mentality Change: Career Development and Skills Training for PhD Candidates  „New instruments for the career development of researchers and improved recruitment methods and career evaluation/appraisal systems as a prerequisite for a genuine European labour market for researchers.“ (Com Recommendation 2005)  Skills training pushed strongly in the UK and Nordic Countries (Sweden) Joint Skills Statement of Research Councils in 2000 UK government -review by Sir Gareth Roberts 2003: „….PhD students’ training should include at least 2 weeks’ dedicated training a year, principally in transferable skills….“

28 Good Practice Example: Skills training at Imperial College London  Research skills and techniques  Research environment –Ethical issues, concerning peer review, pressure for results, conflicts of interest, secrecy, obligation to the public –Commercialisation  Research management –Time management, prioritisation, realism –Project management, milestones etc –Data management, IT skills  Personal effectiveness –Self-discipline, motivation, initiative –Awareness of self limitations, training needs  Communication skills –Writing –Oral presentations: brief, long –Professional audiences, public understanding –Teaching, media  Networking and teamworking –Within research group, institution, wider research community –Understand behaviour, impact on others  Career management: –Ownership, realistic goals, identify development needs –Insight into transferable nature of research skills, range of career opportunities within/outside academia –Effective presentation -CVs, applications, interviews

29 Strategy Development: The Process

30  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

31 Strategic Process depends upon weights associated with 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 most pressing problems.

32 Institutional Choices: Balancing between fostering individual initiative and more targeted institutional steering

33  Research University 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 Nation. / Reg. Context  Filter on the basis of quality (peer review), priorities Individual and Group Projects 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 Outputs: Graduates with research experience Research outputs Innovation outputs visible research strengths partnerships with external knowledge actors & stakeholders Institutional or Indivudal Visibility & Compet. Advant. Indiv. Idea Incentives The impact of university steering and incentives is a lot weaker than the impact of funding agency priorities!

34 Key findings concerning research strategy development at European Universities  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.

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