(Dimension 6) External conditions

This dimension refers to external conditions relevant to and that may affect the external engagement of an institution. If you wish to learn more about the engagement readiness concept and its dimensions, you can download the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report.

On this page you will find a set of tools for improvement of an HEI’s engagement readiness in terms of external conditions of engagement. If you have already completed your self-assessment you might have been directed towards specific tools from the set. You can also browse through the tools without participating in the self-assessment, but we strongly recommend the online self-assessment tool for building a tailored roadmap to engagement readiness, as well as specific recommendations for relevant tools.

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four arrows pointing at the core icon

Sometimes the HEI is not able to shape the environment in which it’s functioning. There are external factors which define many of the prerequisites of engagement. However, in order to be engagement ready, the HEI should be aware of these factors and know how to use them as an advantage in its strategic work or daily operations. 

The following blog post showcases Finland in terms of characteristics of the national profile which define engagement. Also, there is a referral to Geert Hofstede’s well-known cultural dimensions shaping the national organizational culture. The blog post is partly based on Jamk University of Applied Sciences’ conducted expert interviews for the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. 

While reading, think about the national environment in which your organization is functioning. How do the national profile and particular features of the culture shape the engagement readiness in your country? 

a small toy looking like a Finn.
Vinson Tan on Pixabay
photo of Christian Lechner.

As a part of the expert interviews conducted for the purposes of the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report University of Bologna interviewed Christian Lechner, a Professor of Entrepreneurship at LUISS’ Department of Business and Management and at Luiss Business School. He spoke of the importance of environment for engagement readiness. 

According to him, big and old universities’ collaborations start through networking, already established relationships and companies attracted by their reputation. Other universities start collaborating through personal relationships. For this reason, it is crucial building a network that facilitates meetings between researchers and companies. 

A resource that is important to consider is the local reality in which the university is present. The university’s dimension and the city and region in which it lies deeply affect the opportunity that the university itself has to engage with businesses. Universities located in big cities with large, well-established industrial areas could easily raise funds from big companies and collaborate with several businesses. Instead, other universities are in cities where there are not enough possible partners in their proximity. Thus, it is more difficult to obtain funds and find a business to collaborate with. They have to look farther away, increasing the possible communication problems and the cultural and physical distance between their potential partners. Their opportunities to collaborate decrease, undermining the value that cooperation generates. 

Link to the full intervieew: https://engagementready.eu/2022/01/04/voices-from-experts-christian-lechner/  

Link to the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report: https://engagementready.eu/engagement-readiness-investigation-report/  

This paper explores the introduction of centrally coordinated initiatives aimed at formalising universities’ relationships to external organisations. Such initiatives are referred to as structured relations. Based on a review of nine Swedish Universities, we identify three types of structured relation initiatives (network events, collaboration platforms, partnership agreements). In common for all structured relations identified are that they offer new opportunities to manage external expectations on universities, in particular as regards their ability to demonstrate their commitment to outreach activities. The formalisation of outreach activities challenges the academic tradition of giving individual professors discretionary mandates to enter and manage external relationships. Drawing on a collective action perspective, we analyse the tensions that are generated when universities introduce new elements of support and central coordination of outreach activities. The introduction of structured relations potentially contributes to changing the nature of the university as an organisation.

Reference: Broström, A., Feldmann, A. & Kaulio, M. Structured relations between higher education institutions and external organisations: opportunity or bureaucratisation?. High Educ 78, 575–591 (2019).

Link to the full article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-019-0359-1

This blog post explores some of the factors within the key themes that contribute to university readiness for engagement, as identified by the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report. 

In order to foster successful engagement with external actors, it is important for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to adopt an ecosystem approach, where the organisation itself becomes an active part of its local, regional, national, and in some cases international community. A key trait of all HEI that have successful partnerships with business and society partners is a ‘’deep knowledge’’, and an ‘’on the ground’’ understanding of the socioeconomic needs of these wider local and regional communities, as well as an understanding the of roles that different organisations, including themselves, play within the ecosystem. 

Within this ecosystem approach there is an aim to eventually foster the development of a ‘’shared vision’’ and mutual goals between HEIs and their various external partners. This shared understanding is key as it allows the university to produce research, knowledge and technology outcomes that are applicable for partners efforts and goals. Engagement readiness, in this way, entails the production of practical and applicable outputs that can address the needs and goals of the wider business and social community surrounding the university. There is no “one-size-fits-all’’ solution for successful HEI engagement. And it is therefore important to understand the specificities of each HEI, both internally, and as an embedded part of a larger and distinct local, regional and national community. 

Read from the blog more about: 

  • Understanding partners 
  • Know thyself 
  • Considering & shaping the policy-level context 
    A coast in blue, green and red. Birdview.
    photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

    Link to the blog post: https://engagementready.eu/2022/03/10/the-ecosystem-approach/  

    Link to the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report: https://engagementready.eu/engagement-readiness-investigation-report/  

    The Engagement Readiness Toolkit offers you quick tips for improving your organization’s engagement readiness level. If you don’t have the time to go through any other material, you can at least take this syntesized piece of advice with you through the day and reflect on it in your work. 

    This one, as all suggested quick tips, is based on the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report, available for download on the Engagement Readiness Monitor website. 

    Engagement readiness quick tip: To foster successful engagement with your university's external actors, it is vital to understand the university's role within the local, regional, national and international ecosystem, as well as its activities' social and economic impact.
    Engagement readiness quick tip: Universities can act as important growth accelerators for local and regional development by addressing specificm local business needs, in particular, they can create and retain talent pools that meet the local skill gaps.

    The Engagement Readiness Toolkit offers you quick tips for improving your organization’s engagement readiness level. If you don’t have the time to go through any other material, you can at least take this syntesized piece of advice with you through the day and reflect on it in your work. 

    This one, as all suggested quick tips, is based on the Engagement Readiness Investigation Report, available for download on the Engagement Readiness Monitor website. 

    The cover of the UCityLab Status Quo Report.

    The Status Quo report has been prepared as part of the UCityLab project and reports on the Status Quo of the state of university-city cooperation, describing what takes place, the system and environment in which it takes place and the factors affecting it for each of the four university partners.  

    The report first provides a literature review, with a section on the influencing factors. It elaborates on the relevance of interventions in the form of policies, strategies, structural and operational mechanisms that enable the delivery of the university’s public mission through the establishment of projects and initiatives that pursue a wider outreach from traditional teaching and research activities. After that it also outlines the main barriers and drivers for universities as the key players in the development of successful communities. 

    The report is designed to provide a detailed understanding of the context related to university-city cooperation in order to provide better planning and management of the system. A detailed literature review underpins the work, describing university-city cooperation from the perspective of existing research and literature sources, whilst the four partner status quo reports provide a practical perspective layer of university-city cooperation in the city of each university. 

    Link to the report: https://www.ucitylab.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/UCITYLAB-Status-Quo-Report.pdf  

    In Norway, as in many other Nordic countries, the higher education landscape is under profound transformation. This process is being driven by a number of factors; demography, local and ntional competitive pressures, institutional aspirations, etc., with many so-called ‘university-colleges’ aspiring to become fully-fledge universities. This paper sheds light on the dynamics of one such institution, the recently established University of Agder in the South of the country. Conceptually, the paper builds on the notion of university complexity/ambiguity and the importance attributed to macro-level (environmental) features like stylised university models. On the basis of desktop review of institutional documents and semi-structured interviews with university actors (central and unit levels), the paper maps out and tries to make sense of: a) the structural and cultural changes brought by the change in legal status; b) the role of the university in the context of its immediate geographic surroundings; and c) the prevalence of global models for organizing activities, including their consequent impact on external engagement processes. The empirical findings suggest that the university is attempting to find a balance between its global (excellence) and local (relevance) aspirations, but that it currently faces a number of key challenges. The paper provides critical insights to institutional managers and policy-making audiences, in addition to social scientists interested in organizational change/adaptation within (European) higher education systems.

    Reference: Pinheiro, R. (2012). “Internal Transformation and External Engagement: Building a New University”. HEIK working paper series. City: Faculty of Education, Univeristy of Oslo: Oslo.

    Link to the full article: https://www.uv.uio.no/english/research/groups/hedwork/publications/2012/HEIKwp201202_pinheiro.pdf

    Through its web platforms Open Science Policy and Open Science Monitor, the European Commission supports open science learning and informs the public on its policies, norms and opportunities.

    Read about EU’s open science policy from this link: https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/strategy-2020-2024/our-digital-future/open-science_en

    Preview or download the Horizon Europe Open Scence info sheet from this link: https://op.europa.eu/en/web/eu-law-and-publications/publication-detail/-/publication/9570017e-cd82-11eb-ac72-01aa75ed71a1

    Read about the benefits and challenges of open science from this blog: https://blogs.uef.fi/ueflibrary-bors/benefits-and-challenges-of-open-science/

    This case showcases and excellent example of a changemaker pushing boundaries in shaping the local and regional innovation and the entrepreneurial environment. Demola is a co-creation programme between students and external organizations to deliver challenge-oriented ideas. It was created within the innovation ecosystem of Tampere, Finland in collaboration with the municipality, local universities, and the private sector.  

    Demola offers the externalization of facilitation functions to access a larger collaborative network. Present in 17 countries and with over 50 universities being part of the framework, it can benefit organizations by delivering highly effective co-creative projects with multidisciplinary groups that improve the quality of the research. For students, it allows them to experience high pressured environments, with the added recognition in the form of university credits.  

    Demola embraces the need for multidisciplinary approaches for the educational community as well as public and private enterprises. Evolving around the concept of global megatrends, Demola reckons no organization can succeed without connected thinking. One of the priorities for Demola is to provide a co-creative ecosystem that is fair and reasonable for students. To achieve that, proposals from the challenges belong to the team, with the possibility for organizations to invest in the development of those concepts. The succession of feedback and internal assessment culminated in the development of New Factory in 2012, which operates as a hub for open innovation activity and Demola’s local co-creation centre. 

    A birdview of factories with brick pipes and a lot of greenery.

    Link to the case study in the “Universities Nurturing Local & Regional Growth” University Industry Innovation Magazine (page 11-12): https://www.ucitylab.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2020-Special-Issue-FINAL-ONLINE.pdf  

    Currently in France, UBC activities are powerfully driven by the tax incentives. Universities or engineering schools can place their PhD students in a firm to complete their study for three years. Later the firm continues to hire them as post-doctoral studies for another two years. The firm can get the salary expenses back in tax returns. The PhD and postdoctoral students work on very specific projects with limited scope (solve a very particular problem for the hiring company). The tax incentive has proven to foster UBC in France.

    Read more about the system and its benefits in this paper:

    Bastien Bernela & Liliane Bonnal & Claire Bonnard & Julien Calmand & Jean-François Giret, 2018. “School-to-Work Transition of Engineering graduates and PhDs in France: which consequences from a new tax credit for employers who hire young PhD graduates?,” Post-Print halshs-01867930, HAL.

    Link to the paper: https://ideas.repec.org/p/hal/journl/halshs-01867930.html

    While reading, think about what part of the presented practice you would be able to adapt and adopt in the context of your higher education institution.

    A scheme of University of applied sciences' core funding for 2021.
    photo by Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

    Arguably, one of the most powerful external factors HEIs need to align their operations with is funding. Thus, the conditions of funding could be directed towards nurturing an environment that motivates engagement. This does not mean maintaining university-business or university-society relations forcefully, but rather it is an acknowledgement of engagement efforts by governing bodies and funding institutions. 

    Read the section “By Core Funding Towards Engagement” from the blog article Measuring the Engagement of Higher Education Institutions in Finland, where the case of Finnish HEIs’ core funding framework is discussed.  

    Does the funding of HEIs in your country depend on engagement activities? 

    Link to the blog post: https://engagementready.eu/2021/08/25/measuring-the-engagement-of-higher-education-institutions-in-finland/  

    Development projects function on a local, regional, national, and many times international level. HEIs nowadays integrate these projects well as they implement their third mission – to shape, develop and maintain their surroundings, the industry, and society. Development projects constitute some of the most visible areas of engagement. At the same time, the indicators set and followed by the funders of these projects as local, regional, national or international mechanisms ensure and unify the extent and quality of engagement not only in HEIs but in all organizations leading projects. 

    Read the section ”Development Project Indicators and Engagement” from the blog article Measuring the Engagement of Higher Education Institutions in Finland to find out the common indicators of engagement in development projects used in Finland. 

    How do the development project indicators contribute to the engagement readiness in your organization? Are they enabling you to proactively shape the ecosystem? 

    Link to the blog post: https://engagementready.eu/2021/08/25/measuring-the-engagement-of-higher-education-institutions-in-finland/