Examples of Strategy Models for Universities

Historic Perspective

Nowadays it seems evident that leading universities place themselves somewhere in the triangle of higher education, research and innovation and, as a third mission, community service. This placement corresponds to the nature of a university as perceived today and all three items regularly appear in any university strategic plan. Yet, it is worth remembering that universities started their history differently and it may be that the future will again bring changes, with new challenges for universities' strategic planning.

For many centuries, the main task of universities consisted of teaching and learning only. The university was a community of masters and students (“universitas magistrorum et scholarium”), living together in colleges so that the transfer of knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to the next could easily take place on campus. The programs of these communities and their missions were ambitious and based on humanistic principles. In the charter of the University of Vienna, written in 1365, for example, the university was summoned to understand faith and thereby further it (in the faculty of theology), to enhance judicial equity (in the faculty of law), to serve the public good (in the faculty of medicine), and to foster human reasoning (in the faculty of philosophy).

There was no research. To listen to good teachers, students moved around Europe.

University rankings did not exist. However, it was well known around the year 1500 for example, that law was best taught at the University of Bologna, medicine at the University of Padova, and philosophy (the seven “artes liberales”) at the Sorbonne in Paris [2]. The strategy of excellence for a university consisted in hiring the best teachers. Consequently, students would be attracted and thereby the university would be funded. At that time, the majority of university funding came from students.

As the advancement of the sciences gained momentum in the 18th century, and with the increased interest of the then emerging nation states in applying scientific knowledge to solve societal, economic, and military problems, European universities gradually evolved into research institutions dependent on state funding. Finally, innovation became a buzzword of the 21st century. It originated in an economic debate, stressing the importance of science-based innovations for upgrading jobs and triggering growth in a globalized world.

 
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