The Main Challenges of Higher Education Institutions in the 21st Century: A Focus on Entrepreneurship

The Main Challenges of Higher Education Institutions in the 21st Century: A Focus on Entrepreneurship

Daniela Peixoto Olo (CETRAD, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal), Leonida Correia (CETRAD, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal) and Maria da Conceição Rego (CEFAGE, Universidade de Évora, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0174-0.ch001

Abstract

Interest in higher education institutions (HEIs) as instruments for development has increased in recent years. The main objective of this chapter is to address the main challenges HEIs face in the 21st century as key actors for regional development, emphasising their entrepreneurial dimension. The pressures exerted on HEIs to become more effective, efficient, and autonomous require a reflection regarding the present and future of higher education. Through a detailed analysis and discussion of the relevant literature, this chapter contributes to a better understanding of the role of HEIs, especially given its relationship with society and the need for a more effective contribution to socioeconomic development.
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Introduction

Interest in higher education institutions (HEIs) as instruments for development has increased since the mid-1980s, influenced by phenomena such as the globalisation of trade and the growth of intensive knowledge production (Drucker, 2016; Drucker & Goldstein, 2007; Schubert & Kroll, 2016). Many countries have answered positively to this challenge through a social transformation process, with an emphasis on higher education development, research, and innovative capacities (Azman, Sirat, & Ahmad, 2014). The study of this subject remains pertinent because, among other factors, long-term reduction of government financing causes pressure to demonstrate positive economic returns of public funding in HEIs, with a direct contribution to the economy (Etzkowitz, Webster, Gebhardt, & Terra, 2000). Namely, these investments generate questions about the magnitude and distribution of their impacts, as well as their effectiveness in achieving goals (Blackwell, Cobb, & Weinberg, 2002).

The literature points out that HEIs contribute to development through the economic effects and the knowledge spillovers related to their missions of teaching, research, and public service (Goldstein & Drucker, 2006; Lendel & Qian, 2017; Uyarra, 2010). Other contributions include disseminating entrepreneurial behaviors and attitudes in human capital through participation in entrepreneurship studies and education (Finkle, Soper, Fox, Reece, & Messing, 2009; Katz, 2003; Secundo, Del Vecchio, & Passiante, 2015; Solomon, Duffy, & Tarabishy, 2002).

In trying to answer a variety of requests from society, HEIs are undergoing a significant transformation process in structure, organization, and the redefinition of its social purposes. HEIs all over the world face problems and challenges, leading to a reflection on the current position of the university. This is deeply influenced by globalisation, government interference, and financial constraints. HEIs aim to meet the needs and requirements of the 21st century society, which is a society of knowledge, information, and education technologies. As a result, the mission of HEIs and its redefinition are issues of current debate to meet these challenges as it balances academic tradition with social change.

Therefore, the main objective of this chapter is to address the main challenges that HEIs face in the 21st century as key actors for regional development. It emphasises their entrepreneurial dimension, as well as new approaches about this subject as it rethinks the scope of the studies about the role of universities in regional development and research on academic entrepreneurship, resulting from the finding that there have been huge expectations on the role of HEIs in development, while evidence suggests that the benefits of third mission approaches on society are not as successful as anticipated.

Although several authors address the role of universities in regional development, human capital formation, knowledge formation and diffusion and activation for citizenship, it is difficult to find a document that encompasses all these issues simultaneously and that allows the new researchers to be comprehensively integrated into the theme. Thus, this chapter intends to present the “big picture” to readers who may be new to these issues and trends.

Using a detailed analysis and discussion of the relevant literature, this chapter contributes to a better understanding of the role of HEIs, especially given its relationship with society and the need for a more effective contribution to socioeconomic development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Research: A detailed study of a subject to discover original information or reach a new understanding.

Teaching: In education, teaching is the concerted sharing of knowledge and experience. This is usually organised within a discipline and, more generally, the provision of stimulus to the psychological and intellectual growth of a person by another person or artefact.

Triple Helix Model: Universities, government, and companies relationships to establish the transfer of research and technology.

Innovation: The introduction of something new. The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

Entrepreneurial Universities: Higher education institutions that define strategies and tools to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. These constantly adjust to learning and knowledge transfer opportunities at regional, national, and international levels.

Knowledge: Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education.

Spillovers: The impact that seemingly unrelated events in one part of the world can have on economies elsewhere.

Globalisation: The integration of economies, industries, markets, cultures, and policies around the world.

Technology Transfer: The process of transferring (disseminating) technology from the places and in-groups of its origination to wider distribution among more people and places.

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