Green Paper. Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions

Book · March 2012with 660 Reads
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.25015.11687
Publisher: E3M Project
Cite this publication
Abstract
This paper has been prepared by a partnership of Universities funded by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme. The project was entitled: European Indicators and Ranking Methodology for University Third Mission. The objectives were to: * improve the quality, effi ciency and effectiveness of education and training systems in Europe; * encourage and improve Higher Education Institutions’ contribution to society; * foster the creation of a European area of higher education; and * stimulate excellence and improve the visibility of university activities focused on services to society and industry. The document captures much of the learning achieved on the project, and has to do with the kinds of benefi cial impact universities can have on their host societies, and the circumstances that infl uence the ability of universities to deliver those impacts.
Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´
in Higher Education Institutions
This Project has been funded with support from the European Commission
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
About this document
Context
This paper has been prepared by a partnership of
Universities funded by the European Commission
under the Lifelong Learning Programme.
The project was entitled: European Indicators
and Ranking Methodology for University Third
Mission. The objectives were to:
* improve the quality, effi ciency and
effectiveness of education and training
systems in Europe;
* encourage and improve Higher Education
Institutions’ contribution to society;
* foster the creation of a European area of
higher education; and
* stimulate excellence and improve the
visibility of university activities focused on
services to society and industry.
The document captures much of the learning
achieved on the project, and has to do with the
kinds of benefi cial impact universities can have
on their host societies, and the circumstances
that infl uence the ability of universities to deliver
those impacts.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Third Mission activity is a
vitally important component
of any university’s role...
Aim
Third Mission activity is a vitally important
component of any university’s role, whether it
is pictured as a third mission or as integral to
the core missions of education/teaching/learning
and research/scholarship.
It is as important for the
university in countless ways
as it is for society. It is not
new, but narrower notions
of research excellence
have overshadowed it,
and academics have in many instances drawn
themselves into something of a caste apart.
However, over the last decade the Third Mission
has been revived.
It is time to recognise anew an old social compact
between universities and their host societies;
learn to foster and promote it in partnership and
collaboration; and, inter alia, to devise ways to
monitor and report on it.
This Green Paper, then, is about practical ways to
encourage the restoration
of a mission to engage
with society in meaningful
and mutually benefi cial
dialogues and processes.
These naturally centre on
education and research,
but they also exploit the potential each university
represents by virtue of the extraordinary
concentration in one place of so many vigorous
and intelligent people, so much knowledge,
and such impressive resources in the form of
libraries, laboratories, museums, sports facilities
and much more.
As a Green Paper, this document is intended to stimulate informed debate, and in relevant cases to
stimulate alternative courses of action:
by people in universities. In some quarters, where universities are already thoroughly effective at
engaging their resources and capabilities with and for the benefi t of society, the paper will represent
little that is new. In many other areas, however, we believe the messages in this paper represent
hopeful, productive and progressive ideas with the potential for signifi cant benefi cial social and
economic impact.
by offi cials in government at different levels, and professionals and business people, who, by their
actions and policy-making, can encourage and facilitate universities within their remit to engage
optimally with society.
Finally the paper is intended to encourage the next necessary piece of development work on ‘Third
Mission Indicators and Metrics’.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Index
1. Introduction – what is Third Mission?
1.1 Exploration of the notion of ‘Third
Mission’
Origins and the drift apart
Taxonomy and essential concepts
The balance of advantage
1.2 Exploration of the dimensions of Third
Mission
Activities related particularly to research
Activities related particularly to education
Activities related to engaging intellectual,
human and physical resources – Social
Engagement
2. Decisive Factors
2.1 Institutional policy and governance issues
Mission statements and strategy
documents
Permissiveness and enablement
2.2 The Actors
Academic Staff and Students
Support staff
2.3 Finance
2.4 Quality
2.5 Effective Communication
2.6 Human Resources
2.7 Issues infl uencing individual motivation
2.8 Projects and Institutionalisation
3. Measuring Third Mission: Indicators,
Metrics and Ranking
3.1 Defi nitions
3.2 Indicators and Metrics for Third Mission
activity
3.3 Impact
3.4 Rankings
4. Closing Remarks; the need for further
work
5. Recommendations
6. Project Participants
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
1. Introduction
what is Third Mission and why has it
risen up the agenda?
1.1.Exploration of the notion of ‘Third Mission’
Origins and the drift apart
1.1.1. Since the middle ages, European universities have facilitated the learning of students by
teaching; thus they have a mission to educate. Since those early beginnings, the senior
members of such academic communities – those who would now be called academic staff –
have engaged in scholarship. With the dawning of scientifi c method this component of their
work, and thus a second mission, has become known generically as research. While the early
universities nucleated somewhat spontaneously, driven by the social needs of the time, more
recent foundations have been formed by governments and visionary benefactors with a variety
of distinct social purposes in mind.
1.1.2. With many shades of colour and variations of form, and many notable exceptions, there has
been a general tendency for universities and their academic staff, engaged as they are with
what they perceive as the noble pursuits of education and research, to see themselves as
somehow apart from the societies that host them; a very different posture from the intentions
of their founders.
1.1.3. This Green Paper represents a small part of a widespread movement to restore the priority
given to those social purposes – the diffuse and hard-to-characterise ‘Third Mission’, which is
not a separate mission at all, but rather a way of doing, or a mind-set for accomplishing, the
rst two.
Taxonomy and essential concepts
1.1.4. We refer throughout to universities or, interchangeably to Institutions of Higher Education, as if
this were unproblematic. It is true that there is the most enormous variety in this sector; but
we do not explore or attempt to deconstruct this variety. We ignore it because we take the view
that every institution of Higher Education should:
* have an active Third Mission portfolio, and
* pursue a broadly based educational mission
that is adapted to its circumstances and that articulates its role in the social and economic
development of the wider society. This requires a culture appropriate to sustaining a truly
educational mission, rather than a narrower culture of preparing students for the world of work.
It also requires suffi cient resources.
1.1.5. The time when universities could assume that they will be funded, no questions asked, is long
past. Entrepreneurship and new ways of engaging will be required at every level to bring in the
necessary resources (fi nancial, collaborations, access to facilities, etc.) from different sources.
Rich and multiple mutually benefi cial engagements with society are essential for all kinds of
university in this context, and success in this endeavor can be both profoundly motivating and
liberating.
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
1.1.6. We have adopted a classifi cation of this ´Third Mission´
into activities related to research (technology transfer
and innovation, etc.), to education (lifelong learning/
continuing education, training, etc.), and to social
engagement (public access to museums, concerts
and lectures; voluntary work and consultancy by
staff and students, etc.) – a variety of activities that
involves many constituent parts of universities.
1.1.7. Several preconditions are necessary for a university to achieve its potential in this kind of activity:
a suitable culture and mindset; different people with specialised skill-sets; and supporting
structures and mechanisms. We explore the nature of the activities within each dimension, and
the preconditions, in the following sections of this document.
1.1.8. Throughout, we refer to Third Mission activity. This carries signifi cance in two distinct ways.
First, as there is no distinct ‘Third Mission’, all that can be found to evidence delivery against
the social purposes mentioned above is a wide range of activities – ways of going about
education and research that put human and other resources to work, and that respect and
engage with society. The second driver for focusing on activity relates to our aim to develop
measures that characterise Third Mission performance. In Section 3 we explain why the
measurement of ‘impact’ is nearly impossible (as for many activities is also the measurement
of quality) and all that is available for reliable measurement is activity. While activity measures
cannot directly assess the quality or impact of work done, they can, in relevant circumstances,
serve as suitable proxies.
1.1.9. We also use the word engagement as a way of coding for the idea, deeply embedded in the
notion of a social purpose for universities, of two-way processes, of dialogue, of co-creation
and mutual learning. It means ensuring that some research is led by an understanding of
the needs of the society; that some educational programmes will be so well focussed on the
ambition to foster access to higher education for the disadvantaged, that creative forms of
programme will be trialled, departing perhaps signifi cantly from the style of teaching habitually
used for the mainstream population of full-time students. Indeed this kind of creativity often
stimulates a new look at how the formal teaching is conducted, resulting in an enhanced mind-
set of engagement and collaboration between academic staff and mainstream students.
1.1.10. And fi nally, we use the word society. We picture a University as a multifaceted social organism
with a discrete ecology that is connected in many ways, recognised and unrecognised, to the
wider social ecosystems of its city, its region, nation state and, for some universities, other
national communities and supra-national institutions. The scope of connectedness will depend
upon the nature of the university, and the ways in which it is funded. In the case of research
results with potential for commercial exploitation, the need is to get them ‘out there’ to
whichever body is best equipped, wherever in the world; allowing a suitable share of proceeds
to the inventors and to their university. At the other end of the scale, social engagement is
usually related to ties of mutual benefi t at a local level, between university members and
communities within its home city and region. We use the word society to cover all levels of
human organisation outside the university itself.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Universities have been
asked to optimise their
roles as key players
within society ...
The balance of advantage
1.1.11. In conclusion, universities have been
asked to optimise their roles as key
players within society, but this should not
for one moment be seen as an additional
imposition. First it should be recognised
as a modern articulation of the founding
social purposes behind nearly all
institutions. And secondly, Third Mission
activity brings signifi cant advantages:
* Benefi ts of many kinds – enhanced research opportunities and outcomes; generation of
ideas, jobs and companies; a much broader group of students of the university; enhanced
engagement with the community; and it can bring in additional money. Such benefi ts serve
as positive stimuli for the development of the more traditional missions of universities:
teaching and basic research.
* Help to develop research that is more focused on social needs. It is obvious that in the long
perspective, basic research is inalienable from universities. Applied research will be more
adapted to social needs if the users are involved in the process.
* Help to develop teaching and learning modes that address the needs of a broader range of
learners - indeed that engage with the societal need for lifelong-learning more generally -
than the narrow band of school-leavers universities have traditionally restricted themselves
to teaching.
* Development of graduates who are well suited to participate in professional life, and are
aware of their social context.
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
1.2. Exploration of the dimensions of Third Mission
1.2.1. As will be seen from what follows, it is conceptually diffi cult to separate these three dimensions.
There are many overlaps, but the dimensions each have a distinct fl avour and culture. Much of
this activity is, at its best, highly collaborative, characterised by sharing and co-creation, rather
than the university broadcasting, or doing things to others.
Third Mission activities related particularly to research
1.2.2. With many shades of colour and variations
of form, and many notable exceptions,
there has been a general tendency for
universities and their academic staff,
engaged as they are with what they
perceive as the noble pursuits of education
and research, to see themselves as
somehow apart from the societies that
host them; a very different posture from
the intentions of their founders.
1.2.3. This Green Paper represents a small part
of a widespread movement to restore the priority given to those social purposes – the diffuse
and hard-to-characterise ‘Third Mission’, which is not a separate mission at all, but rather a
way of doing, or a mind-set for accomplishing, the fi rst two.
1.2.4. The policy of generosity – to offer technology transfer services nearly at cost and not to try
to make large revenues for the university out of research exploitation – is important. The
university, largely publicly-funded, transfers technology in a commercially responsible way, to
serve society, and to encourage its own people.
1.2.5. Alongside this essentially commercial activity (offi cial and unoffi cial) there are likely to be many
kinds of non-commercial activity (some formal and some informal) that are open to, or that
engage with sections of the public. At the formal end of the spectrum, (and overlapping with
the lifelong learning dimension) universities, or individual staff members, often offer public
lectures, debates or think-tanks where their areas of expertise overlap with areas of public
interest or concern. Science Festivals may draw in thousands of primarily young people. Less
formally, groups of academics might engage in collaborative social research (sometimes called
co-creation of knowledge) with interested groups in the community, and so on …
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Third Mission activities related particularly to education
1.2.6. How is the university’s expertise used to extend the education of non-traditional learner
groups? How can the university realise its potential to be one of the natural fora in the
locality for educating the public and debating (not overtly political) matters of concern, and the
development of consensus?
1.2.7. At the formal, offi cial end of the spectrum,
many universities run programmes of
continuing education courses, some for
leisure and some related to professional
interests; some accredited and some
not. This kind of activity tends to become
obsessed by its own business aspects –
achieving enough attendance on courses
to cover the costs of the staff involved.
1.2.8. The greatest variety of programmes and events is to be found at the informal end of the
spectrum: programmes more oriented to learning than to teaching; work-based and experiential
learning; programmes aimed at extending educational access to higher education to targeted
disadvantaged groups; programmes aimed at engaging university members and local residents
in informed debate about matters of common and current interest; public lectures; festivals of
science and of ideas … the list is long, and is typically labelled lifelong-learning in contrast to
the more ‘establishment’ continuing education.
Third Mission activities related to engaging the intellectual, human and physical
resources of the university – Social Engagement
1.2.9. How does the University exploit, in the service of society, the fact that it constitutes a large
group (typically thousands) of fi t, creative and intelligent people in one academic community,
who could contribute in the local community, but also nationally and internationally, to problem-
solving and development on a massive scale, if they were so minded, and if they were both
empowered and enabled? The canvas for this dimension of Third Mission activity is extremely
broad, and it overlaps the previous two. The core of the activity is volunteering.
1.2.10. The following taxonomy of activity within this dimension has proved useful:
* Social consultancy – using expertise to solve problems pro bono;
* Educational outreach – running the more informal kind of learning programmes;
* Services and facilities – putting resources to work for society.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
2. Decisive Factors
2.1. Institutional policy and governance issues
2.1.1. The form taken by Third Mission activities depends on the detailed context of each institution
and there are few entirely common approaches across the sector and across countries. The
list of factors that might be thought to determine success, and that therefore need to be
thought about in any study of metrics and indicators, is unsurprisingly long and contestable:
* The style of governance and leadership within the institution plays an important role in the
development (successful or otherwise) of Third Mission activities.
* Likewise, the extent to which the institution operates with a predominant climate of
departmental and individual autonomy, exibility and trust plays an important role. When
institutional fl exibility is limited because of regulations or adverse culture, some Third
Mission activities can still fl ourish through the agency of external institutions, sometimes
even wholly-owned by the university. However when individual fl exibility is tightly limited by
institutional rules, Third Mission activity is likely to remain rather meagre.
* Continuity is important both in policy and in funding - unpredictable changes will severely
discourage performance, though a strong thread of self-fi nancing through entrepreneurial
behaviour is intrinsic to successful and sustainable Third Mission activity.
* Successful Third Mission development requires mutual trust and commitment between the
University and its leadership on the one hand, and local/regional authorities, enterprises and
the community in general, on the other. This does not come easily to a university that has
traditionally stood apart from its community.
* For effective engagement to be achieved, reducing or eliminating this sense of apartness,
university leaders may need:
to revise their public relations priorities;
explicitly to value ‘Third Mission’ activity more or less on a par with the achievement
of academic status, in all those matters that infl uence the attitudes and behaviour of
academic staff, not least in considerations of promotion and remuneration.
* Different visions for Third Mission activity may emerge and these may co-exist harmoniously
or they may be diffi cult to reconcile. Taking lifelong learning as an example, there may
be those who wish to mount formal courses that they believe people will want to attend,
while others are passionate about peer and experiential learning programmes co-developed
with representatives of disadvantaged groups in the locality - the fi rst being essentially
a vision of broadcasting the university’s expertise more widely; and the second, more
experimental and less sure of achieving initially-conceived outcomes, majoring on access
for the disadvantaged, co-responsibility and shared learning.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
2.1.2. We conclude that the determining factor is the extent to which individuals within a university
(academic staff and students particularly but also certain other key support staff, about whom
more later) are themselves motivated and enabled, in the sense of entrepreneurs, openly to
initiate and pursue activities that benefi t and link their university to society.
What is important is that
the university commits
itself to engagement with
and service to society.
2.1.3. A university’s commitment to ´Third
Mission´ should be articulated at the
highest possible level – in the university’s
Mission Statement, but probably not by
mention of these
two words. What is
important is that the
university commits
itself to engagement
with and service to
society. This implies
not that it will make
a few gestures towards the communities
outside its campus, but that it will go
about its business of education, learning,
research, critique and debate in such
a way as to promote engagement and
linkage with society, and put its intellectual
and other assets to work.
2.1.4. A general recognition in the Mission
Statement - that the University exists to
serve and engage with society through
education, research and related activities
- enables and permits
activity at the interface
with society quite generally,
thus giving free rein to
individual staff members´
and students´ creativity;
whereas selective defi nition
of specifi c university-led
programmes can be seen as a constraint,
resulting in less than full-hearted support.
The territory needs air to breathe; scope
for entrepreneurship.
Mission statements and strategy documents
Permissiveness and enablement
2.1.5. University leadership needs to refl ect upon why it is important, if indeed it is important, to
develop a Third Mission profi le: might it help the institution develop its performance in teaching
and research, for example? Then they need to ask how this should translate into reasons
why individuals might want to direct a portion of their time and effort to bringing about such
improvement. It is a much more compelling proposition to offer personal advantage, than the
abstract notion that an activity will benefi t the University. Academics will perform best in Third
Mission activity if they are doing it because they want to. They will want to do it, if it helps
meet their other objectives (recognition of excellence and impact in teaching and research;
remuneration and promotion).
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
2.1.6. The emphasis here has been on permissiveness and enablement. We are persuaded that
Third Mission activity does not benefi t from being tightly managed, or indeed from being over-
supported in a paternalistic top-down way. But it does need to be:
* explicitly encouraged by the University leadership, for example by the symbolic appointment
of a vice-Rector for Third Mission promotion (NB. not management);
* enabled by expert, capable and empowered support staff;
* supported by an adequate budget allocation; and
* generally valued and recognised for making the real contribution it does, when opportunities
arise for celebrating or evaluating individual and group performance and contribution.
2.2. The Actors
Academic Staff and Students
2.2.1. Academic staff members frequently take signifi cant roles in Third Mission activity, and they
may well also be involved as advisers in student-led projects. Much attention has been given
to them in this paper because the culture they inhabit; the rules that control what they may
and may not do; and the extent to which they enjoy an ambience of trust and support from the
university’s leadership, determines to a very great extent the effi cacy, creativity and extent of
Third Mission activity.
2.2.2. This notwithstanding, the prime actors in Third Mission activity are often students, who have so
much to give, and who can benefi t greatly from systematic engagement with society.
2.2.3. Finally, joint involvement in Third Mission activity can build bridges between staff and students,
massively enhancing the overall culture of the institution.
Support staff
2.2.4. The range of skills and work involved in the full range of Third Mission activity is exceptionally
broad, extending from coordination, needs analysis, programme design and delivery; through
public relations and marketing; to contract negotiation and the management of intellectual
property portfolios. For the sake of effectiveness as well as effi ciency, institutions usually fi nd
it appropriate to recruit non-academic staff to work alongside and support academics and
students in the conduct of their Third Mission activity. Such staff should be placed where
they are needed, not generally co-located in a centralised facility, but encouraged to support
each other. Their quality is of paramount importance, but so too is another feature that is more
diffi cult to manage.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
2.2.5. In some universities there is an assumption, whether implicit or explicit, that only academic staff
should be empowered to take signifi cant decisions that bind the institution. Successful Third
Mission work requires an adjustment to such attitudes, and the development of sophisticated
and trusting teamwork between academic staff and skilled specialized ´administrative´ staff,
who handle often highly entrepreneurial interface functions.
2.2.6. As we remarked above, in connection with the relationships between staff and students, non-
hierarchical, trusting teamwork between academic and support staff can enhance the culture
of the entire institution, signifi cantly infl uencing the scope of what it can achieve.
2.2.7. Inadequate or inadequately empowered staff in interface roles can be a potent brake on the
development of Third Mission activities. It should always be remembered that a bridge can also
become a bottleneck!
2.2.8. It is important that Universities allocate suffi cient budget, where it is needed, and that they
allow staff members to retain suffi cient of any money raised through their Third Mission activity,
to resource and pay for support staff of the necessary calibre.
2.3. Finance
2.3.1. Funding mechanisms are a key issue in the development of a successful Third Mission portfolio.
There may be a transition between government-stimulated start-up, through to an internally
nanced sustainable steady state. Stability of funding is crucial.
2.3.2. Vital are attitudes and mechanisms to allow academics to take control (we have referred
elsewhere to the need to allow staff and students signifi cant autonomy) and to participate
nancially, particularly in Third Mission activities relating to the exploitation of research results
(licensing, patenting, company formation) but also the exploitation of knowledge and know-
how (consultancy, professional continuing
education courses, etc.). In all cases
individual inventors and creators should be
able to take a majority share in intellectual
property, even though the creation or
invention may have been accomplished
in contracted time and using university
facilities.
2.3.3. In institutions where achievement of targets
plays an important role in determining
levels of funding, it is important that these
include suitable Third Mission targets, for
the institution as a whole and perhaps
also for its component parts.
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
2.4. Quality
2.4.1. Third Mission activity conducted ‘offi cially’, as is frequently the case (technology transfer
negotiations, continuing education programmes, public lectures, etc., etc.), should be subject
to the university’s normal quality assurance procedures, which normally have at their core a
process of critique by a group of peers. It is important that anything run unoffi cially (and there
will be a great deal, whether offi cially sanctioned or not – independent consultancy, courses,
volunteer programmes, company start-ups, etc.) that might carry the university’s name implicitly
or explicitly, should be subject to similar scrutiny. In a culture of trust it is normally suffi cient
for there to be a simple set of guidelines that staff and students are expected to abide by.
2.5. Effective Communication
2.5.1. Effective communication of Third Mission activities is important. Good communication helps
enhance the status of such activity in those universities where it is insuffi ciently focused. It also
helps fi ght against the typical reluctance of academic cultures to be active in fi elds other than
narrowly defi ned teaching and research.
2.5.2. Communication is a vital instrument to promote awareness - internally and externally - of
the various ways in which the institution fulfi lls its obligations to the society that supports its
existence:
* Good communication facilitates the internal politics that determine appropriate allocation
and distribution of funding of Third Mission activities; the attribution and maintenance of
organizational autonomy to different structures and individuals pursuing those of activities;
and the provision of light but suffi cient governance and oversight.
* Good public dialogue will become increasingly important as funding becomes scarcer, and
the University as a whole is more explicitly competing to maintain its priority for funding.
2.6. Human Resources
2.6.1. Some entrepreneurial activity offers individual staff members or students the opportunity to
earn money, either for themselves or for their projects. While this should be welcomed, it is
not the case for most kinds of Third Mission engagement. In such circumstances, institutions
may fi nd the question of how to ‘incentivise’ Third Mission activities problematic, given that it
is rarely possible to pay people extra for engaging in it.
2.6.2. The quality and impact achieved through participation in Third Mission activities should be
taken into account when considering promotion and career development and, as mentioned
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
above, successful contributions, indicative of two-way benefi t, should be widely communicated
and celebrated. The necessary motivation will derive from the realisation that the institution
expects engagement with society, and that the work is appreciated and enjoyable.
2.6.3. Much has been made in this document of the need for an entrepreneurial mindset and
considerable autonomy of action. This may generate a new and unfamiliar set of demands
on a university’s Human Resources (Personnel) department, which may need careful and
sustained support from the university’s senior team.
2.7. Issues infl uencing individual motivation
2.7.1. This topic received some attention above under the sub-heading “Permissiveness and
enablement”.
2.7.2. Most successful initiatives build spontaneously on individuals, or networks of people, with
enthusiasm and an entrepreneurial vision and attitude, both to their academic work and to
Third Mission activity, whether this be through the exploitation of results, the co-creation of
educational programmes, or something else. In most cases the key person is an individual
with academic prestige and leadership, but who is also able to develop a strong network with
external authorities, business people and the like. Universities generally have no shortage of
such vigorous intelligent people.
2.7.3. Given the predominance of individual initiative in Third Mission activity, it is vitally important that
Universities trust and empower their staff to take initiative, granting them substantial autonomy,
under only light surveillance.
2.7.4. No single issue splits opinion as this one does, with managed institutions on one side and
institutions that are, in one way or another, academic-led, on the other. In respect of the fi rst
category, the issue is relatively straightforward: one of good leadership and management. In
respect to the latter, arguably more complex organizations, Third Mission activities should in the
main be voluntary, both for academic staff and for students. Considerable space should thus
be left for serendipity; for individual motivation, judgment and entrepreneurship; fostered and
strongly supported where possible (by the university’s leadership and by the professional non-
academic support staff mentioned above), but only
loosely managed and under light but appropriate
governance, oversight and quality assurance
regimes.
2.7.5. Universities that allow their staff considerable
autonomy should nevertheless articulate broad-
brush strategies for the growth and development of
it is vitally important that
Universities trust and
empower their staff to
take initiative...
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Third Mission activity. Such strategies should be clearly informed by the activities of staff and
students, as much as guiding them. Such strategies should stop short of prescription at the
individual level.
2.7.6. In summary, other than trust and autonomy, critical incentives include:
* taking into consideration the quality and impact of academic staff involvement in Third
Mission activities (including the status they may achieve through their activities beyond the
university’s walls) for their assessment, promotion and academic recognition;
* maintaining generous intellectual property regulations (technology transfer activities should
not be motivated primarily by any desire to generate money for the institution);
* covering overheads related to Third Mission activities and the provision of suitable support
staff.
2.8. Projects and Institutionalisation
2.8.1. Third Mission projects do not thrive within a project cycle, much beloved of funding agencies.
On the contrary, they need to be run according to their own logic, but effectively and with
integrity.
2.8.2. Universities should only try to institutionalize initiatives after they reach a certain stage of
development; but some projects should never be institutionalized at all. Even then, projects
still typically need a strong leader who speaks the language of the external world, is respected
in academia, and is competent in networking.
2.8.3. Support staff members need to work with initiatives throughout their evolution, not forcing the
pace towards institutionalization, but being ready for it.
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
3. Measuring Third Mission:
Indicators, Metrics and Ranking
3.1. Defi nitions
3.1.1. We have frequently been led to observe how the terms indicator and metric are unhelpfully
treated as interchangeable, whereas they stand for different concepts:
* Indicators are devices, like traffi c lights (red for danger, amber for “be watchful” and green
for “everything is OK”), or like the security-alert state in a prison (elevated, high, severe, etc.)
that indicate the extent to which managers need to worry about the feature. The indication
(orange; low threat level) may be arrived at by a process of applying expert judgment to a
basket of measures and qualitative reports.
* Metrics are precisely defi ned
quantitative assessments of the state of
a particular parameter that is postulated
to be reliable and robust. Examples
might include the altitude read-out on
the dashboard of an aeroplane, or the
youth unemployment fi gure for a region.
Intelligent and truthful interpretation
of a reading from a metric generally
requires some contextual knowledge
and a sense of the history of the readings through different circumstances over time; the
more so, the more complex the phenomenon the metric purports to quantify.
* We use ‘measures’ to include both metrics and indicators.
* If expertly conducted, qualitative descriptions and judgments can be as valuable as, or
more valuable than measurements; in complex multifactorial circumstances, metrics can
be misleading.
3.2. Indicators and Metrics for Third Mission activity
3.2.1. In the context of a university, good indicators and metrics can serve to provide a handle on
things that were previously hard to grasp; they render such activities monitorable and to an
extent infl uenceable or manageable. But therein also lie dangers. The temptation, once one
has a metric, is to start to believe things about what it is saying – things that may not be true.
If funding is ever attached to a metric then its visibility is immediately increased, often resulting
in severe distortions. Fundamentally important here is that metrics should only be selected if
enhancement of their value assists the organization to achieve its strategy. If this is not the
case, they are likely to result in unintended consequences.
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3.2.2. Good indicators and metrics, well and responsibly handled, can offer a dashboard for the fi rst
time, allowing managers to take informed decisions. They can allow previously largely hidden
work to achieve more prominence, and perhaps, once measured, to attract funding. They can
allow strategic planners to work with other institutions, and to learn from each other.
3.2.3. Efforts to measure Third Mission activity may initially be greeted with mistrust, but if trust is
established, then much of the previously hidden activity will be revealed and can be celebrated
and reported. As we have suggested elsewhere in this paper, even the attempt to facilitate
Third Mission activity and raise its profi le may be greeted with suspicion, depending upon the
culture of the institution, and the basis upon which the approach is being made.
3.2.4. Third Mission activities are diffi cult to identify and to track within universities, not least because
administrations may, in the past, have unwittingly driven such activity underground. There has
until recently been little call to collect and display data to track Third Mission activities and there
will be a cost attached to the introduction of new metrics.
3.2.5. Third Mission activities can be grouped
into processes which can be considered
common, regardless of the organisational
structure each institution has to carry
them out. The E3M project website (www.
e3mproject.eu) lists the processes to be
developed in each of the three dimensions
included in the Third Mission, as well as
information about how they have been
defi ned.
3.2.6. If the intention is faithfully to record the richness and scope of third mission activity in an
institution, probably dozens of fi nely-tuned indicators and metrics will be needed. On the other
hand, if the intention is to rank institutions in terms of their Third Mission performance, a very
short set of measures will be needed, carefully selected as before, but with different criteria. At
the limit, senior managers and policy-makers might require display of a maximum of three or
four ‘strategic metrics or indicators’ that act as proxies for the many more detailed measures.
These approaches are inevitably somewhat in confl ict, and display different fallibilities. How to
manage those issues is one of the main themes of the companion report.
3.3. Impact
3.3.1. No account of metrics and indicators, however summary, would be complete without mention
of the extreme diffi culty (familiar to economists) of measuring the impact of any particular
university activity (it is nearly impossible to attribute causation; impacts are realized haphazardly
over space and time; etc.). All that is possible is to select relatively reliable and robust activity
indicators as proxies (stand-ins) for impacts.
Good indicators and metrics
can offer a dashboard, allowing
managers to take informed
decisions...
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3.3.2. It has to be accepted that such proxies cannot of themselves measure quality. But such
reservations apply to most metrics in most walks of life – the important is to be aware of the
limitations and to hold back from unreasonable reliance upon them. Well-chosen proxies can
become reliable guides to performance in a broad area, as their limitations become known and
widely recognised.
3.3.3. Mention was made above of the utility of qualitative descriptions. Very often the best way
practically to evaluate the impact of a project or initiative is to undertake and write up a thorough
analytical case study.
3.4. Rankings
3.4.1. We have stood back from developing a ranking methodology for production of a European league
table of Third Mission performance, as to do so generally would fall foul of the extraordinary
diversity and variability in mission, profi le and quality, evident among the universities on the
continent of Europe, let alone the rest of the world. General rankings can move attention from
the impact one is achieving as an institution, to competing, perhaps superfi cially in metrics
rather than in substance, with other institutions.
3.4.2. We see signifi cant potential for the use of Third Mission metrics, however, to provide comparisons
for small groups of comparable institutions, typically called ‘benchmarking’. In this case they
would select baskets of metrics (carefully selected sets) that support their particular missions
and strategies.
3.4.3. We imagine that governments might come, in time, to seek scorecards from the universities
they fund that give a comprehensible account of their ‘Third Mission’ impact. This would form
part of the Balance Sheet - an increasingly explicit part of the social contract between state and
institution – we fund you, but you must deliver impact and value for money, as well as academic
high-culture. By that time, there would be no further need of the term ‘Third Mission’.
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4. Closing Remarks; the need for
further work
4.1. We believe that this Green paper goes some way towards sharing ideas and increasing
transparency in regard to Third Mission vision, management and conduct.
4.2. However, this project does not complete the work of devising and testing Third Mission
indicators and metrics – rather it seeks to engage an intelligent debate by offering a conceptual
framework and a set of metrics that have been subjected to a high degree of scrutiny and
contestation. The time has come for these to be debated and contested in wider fora. We are
convinced that it will be routine, in several decades´ time, to record and measure Third Mission
activity, while coordinating and facilitating it lightly.
4.3. Progress should not be hurried, as it could be more damaging to measure the wrong thing
than not to measure anything at all. All measurements generate unintended consequences,
particularly if they are used to drive funding. The process should be taken moderately and
intelligently forward, nonetheless, and despite the risks, because the prize for getting it right will
be considerable – more self-confi dent and
productive universities, more thoroughly
engaged in the cultural and economic
development of their host societies.
4.4. The social engagement of universities
should be a commitment rather than a
competition. Well-chosen metrics and
indicators can provide effective tools
for decision-making, based on each
institution’s strategic goals rather than a
global conception of what an excellent university should be. The commitment of many socially-
engaged universities is needed, working together on metrics, rankings and the PR-front
rather than in competition, to create the conditions for the true extent, value and impact of
the university-sector’s contribution to society truly to be appreciated by policy-makers and the
public. If rankings are to be used, then they need to be within coherent sets of comparable
universities, and choosing baskets of metrics, from the full set, that accurately refl ect the
nature of their engagements with society.
We believe that this Green paper
goes some way towards sharing
ideas and increasing transparency
in regard to Third Mission vision,
management and conduct.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
5. Recommendations
Institutions and their leaders might like to consider:
* revitalizing their social contract with society by building commitment to Third Mission activity
into mission statements and strategic documents;
* following this up by supporting and celebrating the activity, and by engaging with local authorities
and the other high-level institutions of society;
* infl uencing the culture of the institution so that academic staff and students are as readily
motivated to engage with society as they are to achieve academic recognition - one sure way
to move in this direction would be to allow meritorious involvement by academic staff in these
activities to be considered as justifi cation for promotion;
* protecting meritorious initiatives where possible from random detrimental variations in funding
or policy;
* fostering a trusting ambiance that allows considerable freedom, under light but appropriate
governance arrangements.
Academic staff might like to consider:
* ealising their own personal share of the Third Mission social contract with society - as senior
members of the university and dependent upon their strengths and interests;
* behaving entrepreneurially both academically and through external engagement;
* engaging in trusting relationships and activities with non-academic people, including both
expert support staff within, and people outside the university.
Business people and others in public roles in society
might like to consider:
* trusting, engaging and working with university people, looking for inputs of innovation and
energy, knowledge and skills;
* making allowances for the particular culture within universities, which typically differs markedly
from that found in the commercial world, but is not ‘worse’;
* adopting a medium-term horizon for the timing of projects.
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Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
Public offi cials and politicians might like to consider:
* facilitating the recovery of the social contract between universities and society through Third
Mission activity, using whatever (fi nancial and other) instruments they have at their disposal
* abstaining from rapid and/or repeated changes in funding or policy regimes.
All the stakeholders should:
* combine forces to promote and support the diffi cult, but important, work of developing suitable
metrics and indicators to represent the range of Third Mission activity - without causing woeful
unintended consequences - over a reasonable timescale: neither long nor hurried.
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Green Paper
Fostering and Measuring ´Third Mission´ in Higher Education Institutions
6. Project participants
External experts:
* Christopher Padfi eld, University of Cambridge
* José-Ginés Mora, Institute of Education, University of London
The consortium formed for this Project consists of the
following institutions and coordinators:
Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain
José-Miguel Carot
Andrés Carrión
University of Helsinki; Finland
Kauko Hämäläinen
Donau-Universität Krems, Austria
Attila Pausits
University of Maribor, Slovenia
Marko Marhl
Universidade do Porto, Portugal
Alfredo Soeiro
Istituto Superiore Mario Boella, Italy
Stefano Boffo
Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland
Mike Murphy
Universidad de León, Spain
Javier Vidal
This Project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects only the views of the
author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Grant Agreement Number: 2008 - 3599 / 001 - 001
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