Developmental university systems: empirical, analytical and normative perspectives
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It has become almost trivial to assert that in the knowledge society universities are important institutions. This consensus notwithstanding, questions like in what sense and for whom those institutions are important are far from receiving unanimous answers. Should the major function be to promote higher education in order to serve all sectors of society or should the emphasis be to engage in research and what are the relationships between the two types of activities? And what should a ‘third mission’ encompass: A broad interaction with society or just an interaction with the business sector aiming at promoting technical innovation in high technology. Debates are particularly entangled in developing countries, partly due to a strong presence of international advice alongside the positions held by local actors, partly due to the level of the challenges that such countries and their universities are facing. Both in the developed and the developing countries the main emphasis is now on how universities may serve industry through direct flows of information from on-going research. To illustrate, in a recent book with the title ‘How Universities Promote Economic Growth’ edited by World Bank Economists (Yusuf and Nabeshima 2007) the only dimension covered is the formation of university-industry links related to research. But it is obvious that universities contribute to economic growth and development through other mechanisms, not least through the flow of graduates into the labor market. It is also important to see how universities share functions and responsibilities with other institutions involved in knowledge production and knowledge diffusion. This implies that the most relevant level of analysis may be, not the single university, but the ‘university system’ seen as an integrated element in a broader national innovation system.