The University as a Knowledge Enterprise in an Innovation-Driven Society
An interesting further move toward knowledge entrepreneurialism of universities is offered by the “New American University” model, introduced by Arizona State University (ASU). Approximately ten years ago, this university reformulated its mission and strategic plan, endeavoring to inspire more creativity and innovation within the institution .
The main ideas of the new strategic concept have been derived in the context of new policies in the U.S. state of Arizona. This state, unlike the area of nearby Los Angeles, is characterized by an underbuilt and undifferentiated university infrastructure. Yet, this backward position allowed new pathways for development, which were laid down in an unconventional strategic plan for 2002–2012. The plan opted for a reconceptualization of a university.
There are four basic strategic goals.
• “Access and quality for all”: This goal seems to be a contradiction in terms.
This is especially so when an institution is confronted with limited financial means. Yet, ASU would appear to be on a growth trajectory where both strategic goals, access and quality, seem to be attainable. In 2013, for example, the number of enrollments had already approached 77,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Freshman numbers have increased in size by about 50 % since 2002. Access for students from poor families (with annual income below
60.000 USD) has risen by 500 %. These students are able to graduate debt free from the university. By hiring new faculty, quality could also be improved.
• “National standings for colleges and schools in every field”: ASU is constantly
ranked among the top hundred universities in the world. Its research strength lies especially in engineering and computer sciences. Standings seem to improve according to various benchmarks.
• “Becoming a national comprehensive university”: This goal is meant to build
national and global distinction on the basis of comprehensiveness of the university.
• “Enhancing our local impact and social embeddedness”: Although the univer-
sity wants to be a top-notch research institution, it is strongly committed not to advance abstract knowledge per se. Instead, the university looks at the social, economic, cultural, and environmental impact of its knowledge advancement. In light of this perspective, the university has founded a school of sustainability, introduced a study of religion and conflict, and established a biodesign institute. Yet, at the same time, it has eliminated departments such as biology, anthropology, geology, or sociology.
What makes ASU's Strategic Plan particularly interesting is that it strives for combining two objectives: (1) the plan will increase the university's size and expand its intellectual, pedagogical, and functional breadth. By engaging in a growth path, the university is endeavoring to simultaneously implement accessibility, inclusiveness, and quality; (2) the university has changed its organization, away from the departmental structure, to interand transdisciplinary centers, thereby hoping to increase its societal impact by tackling present and future grand challenges. Inevitably, with the momentum of growth and with the new design of the university, ASU was able to attract excellent academics that foster the culture of curiosity and creativity.