The Connected University: Ireland's Higher Education Institutions and Their Knowledge Exchange Activities
43 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 9, 2015
We present the results of a survey of Irish higher education staff, the aim of which was to ascertain a broad picture of the nature and extent of their engagement with various stakeholders.
Contrary to the stereotype of academics living in 'ivory towers' and not being engaged with 'the real world' the evidence here is quite different. A broad level of engagement is evident across four main realms – commercialisation, engagement with persons, with communities and in problem solving situations. 33% responded that they saw their research mainly having relevance for non-commercial external bodies, with 22% seeing it mainly as having commercial research. Direct engagement in commercial activity is limited with 8% having taken out a patent or formed a consultancy. These were very heavily dominated by the STEM disciplines as one might imagine.
When we look at other forms of acidity however we find a much richer and broader engagement. 60% of respondents were actively engaged with external private and 50% with public sector bodies. Public sector engagement was higher for AHSS disciplines than private, a mirror image of the STEM findings. Public sector engagement was however very heavily local, with very little evidence of engagement with non-Irish bodies. More than 30% of respondents were engaged with external bodies in activities such as student placements, curriculum development, informal non-remunerated advice, joint research etc.
In terms of engagement initiation the most frequent approach was an academic approaching an external body. There was very limited evidence for the role of university Technology transfer bodies in initiating contact with external bodies.
The motivation for external interaction was overwhelmingly located in the areas of testing and checking theories and hypotheses and in gaining insight, as opposed to more commercial reasons. Over 50% of respondents felt that this contact had led to new insights and 40% found it had led to new projects. 40% also felt that the external contact had led to new teaching insights. Lack of time and lack of institutional support were the most frequently cited reasons for academics reporting being constrained in interactions with external bodies. 'Cultural' differences between academia and others were not seen as a major barrier. Finally, there was muted support for arguments that academia should focus only on basic research in isolation, and some positive support for academia increasing the competitiveness of Irish business.
Keywords: engagement, universities, higher education, commercialisation, community, outreach
JEL Classification: I21, I28,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation