Exploring Difference: The Third Mission of Universities

Harnack-Haus, Ihnestraße 16-20, 14195 Berlin, 27. June 2017 9:30 bis 13:30

Collaborations between universities and external partners from business and society have increased considerably over the past years. Within public debates different terms have been coined, in order to describe this process, such as ‘Third Mission’, ‘Third Generation University’ or ‘Innovative University‘. Ideally, these collaborations are defined as bidirectional or multidirectional interactions, creating value for all partners involved. Many German universities have started taking important steps in that direction. Partly encouraged by recent political funding initiatives, more and more universities have started to develop transfer and collaboration strategies and thus define overarching institutional objectives for the cooperation with partners from business and society. For many universities the path to becoming a truly cooperative university remains challenging, as it often requires a cultural and organizational change.

The aim of the conference was to fill the concept of the third mission of universities with life and enrich the debate and recent developments in Germany with insights from an international perspective. Together with experts from Canada, the US, the UK, and Germany we discussed how higher education institutions can be successful on their way to more transfer and partnership cooperation with stakeholders from business and society.

Our key questions were:

  • What is your university’s overall strategy regarding collaboration with business and society?
  • How are the strategic goals reflected in organizational structures, services and communication? Which organizational, communicative and financial preconditions need to be fulfilled, in order to accomplish the third mission of a university?
  • Which incentives and evaluation tools are needed for new forms of collaboration?
  • Which (national or regional) political framework and conditions hinder or foster cooperation?
  • How can value for all partners be created? How can work be effectively divided between partners?
  • What does business, and what does civil society expect from universities?
  • What are current challenges? What are key recommendations?

The conference was aimed at university leaders, interested persons from university administration and academia, representatives of politics, civil society and companies. Conference chair: Jan-Martin Wiarda, science and education journalist.

Partner event: The ID-E Berlin event was preceded on Monday June 26 by the conference „Auf dem Weg zur Kooperativen Hochschule” (in German) with a focus on the German national perspective organised by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. See further information at www.stifterverband.org/veranstaltungen/2017_06_26_kooperative_hochschule.