Jonathan Ortmans, a Sr. Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, has a nice posting discussing the Entrepreneurial University. ASU, GMU, and others are used as examples of large research universities choosing to be entrepreneurial.
Ortmans highlights a paper that came out a conference last summer called The Future of the Research University: An Institutional Innovation. Kauffman and the Max Planck Institute hosted the event.
From Ortmans’ post:
At this conference, a consensus seemed to emerge: universities can only effectively become incubators of entrepreneurship and innovation if they themselves practice entrepreneurship. For example, Arizona State University’s (ASU) Michael Crow turned this institution into a force for innovation by reconceptualizing a large public university as an academic enterprise. Today, ASU competes for research funds, bright students and faculty and it strives to be responsive to the changing needs of its local and global constituencies. It collaborates with other academic institutions, business and industry, much like a private enterprise.
This “reconceptualization” involved several non-traditional university arrangements. Transforming ASU involved abolishing academic departments, creating new ones, and even helping to found entirely new academic disciplines. This is not surprising. The idea of universities explicitly fostering entrepreneurship in business is quite radical. Traditionally, universities have preferred to partner with government and to shield themselves from private industry.
The paper is worth reading as it compares and contrasts US institutions to those around the world. As we know, higher education in the US has always been more decentralized and schizophrenic than other national systems of higher education. This is one reason for US higher ed’s vitality.
The movement towards the Entrepreneurial University is only the latest higher ed struggle between those supporting knowledge for knowledge’s sake and those who demand practical knowledge. IMHO, the best administrators in higher ed in the US have focused on practical knowledge. This is what has given US higher education a competitive advantage of the past 50 years.
Some questions: Is your research university trying to become entrepreneurial? Is it working? What about non-research Universities? How do they become entrepreneurial? Can they? Should they? What about community colleges and vocational schools?