Third Mission: few universities of applied sciences have a clear focus
In the face of the growing competition for external funding, top personnel and students, it is becoming increasingly important for Germany’s higher education institutions to shape their own individual profile. An analysis by the CHE Centre for Higher Education reveals for the first time the extent to which universities of applied sciences have created distinct profiles in the areas of research and Third Mission.
One in six universities of applied sciences in Germany belong to the category of highly active HEIs in the areas of research and Third Mission. Examples of such activities include regional engagement and technology transfer. Nine per cent of all institutions have a distinct Third Mission profile; 19 per cent have a clear research profile. More than a fifth of all universities of applied sciences do not yet focus on either of these two areas.
These are the conclusions reached by an analysis conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education in Gütersloh. The assessment is based on a representative self-assessment of 84 rectors of universities of applied sciences in Germany. In the survey, the respective university management assessed their level of activity in 23 facets concerning applied research and Third Mission.
It was shown that the size of the HEI plays a role in this respect. For example, universities of applied sciences with a student population of more than 5,000 are considerably more active in the area of research and Third Mission than their counterparts with fewer than 1,000 students.
The author, CHE’s Isabel Roessler, explained that this need not necessarily be a disadvantage for the location: “Large universities of applied sciences demonstrate a higher level of activity in developing a wide range of key areas in research and Third Mission. But, of course, a larger number of professors teach and conduct research at such institutions than at their smaller counterparts. Nonetheless, smaller universities of applied sciences can also create their own specific profile and concentrate on individual areas, such as continuing education.”
Roessler stated that it is becoming increasingly important for Germany’s 400+ HEIs to create distinct profiles. “When there is greater competition for external funding, top personnel and students, having a clear focus may help an HEI to distinguish itself from all the others.”
In addition, the “Innovative Hochschule” funding programme that has just been launched offers further incentives. This scheme, adopted by the german Federation and the federal states on 20 May 2016, reinforces the efforts of HEIs in the area of Third Mission, providing funding to a tune of €550 million.
About the study The CHE working paper “Positionierung durch Profilierung – Stärkung der Third Mission an HAW” (Strengthening positions by sharpening profiles – Reinforcing Third Mission at universities of applied sciences) was based on a qualitative and quantitative survey of vice chancellors of Germany’s universities of applied sciences. A total of 84 rectors responded to the survey, which equates to 42 per cent of all universities of applied sciences in Germany. Public administration colleges and other specialised universities of applied sciences were excluded from the study. The publication was created within the research project entitled “Facets and Indicators for Research and Third Mission at universities of Applied Sciences”, or FIFTH for short. The results of the survey were presented for the first time at the Annual Conference of the European Association for International Research (EAIR) in 2015 in Krems, Austria.
Information about the FIFTH research project The project receives support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under funding ID 01PY13007 until September 2016. The aim of the project is to develop methods that are capable of accurately measuring and portraying the performances achieved by universities of applied sciences in the areas of research and research-related Third Mission.
Further Information can be found in the publications stated below.