“Heading for Global Research Universities” – Thematic Session (UNESCO)     17.11.2011

It is no longer enough to think about the role of universities at a local level in an age when science and economy are becoming global. This was one of the key observations of the thematic session to which UNESCO delegated science policy experts from five countries.

The speakers had a look at what challenges the transformation of the scientific world map poses from the point of both developed and developing economies.

Today countries are pressed to have their institutes of higher education included into the international elite, which in turn may widen the distance between public and private universities, Ms Ellen Hazerkorn, Dean of the Graduate Research School at the Dublin Institute of Technology started out by saying. The role of the former might shift towards education, while that of the latter to research. The presenter advocated the interconnection of the elements within the knowledge triangle – education, research and innovation – being linked and suggested the revision of the international ranking systems of universities.

Ms Teboho Moja, clinical professor of New York University called attention to the trend of governments worldwide recognizing the increasing role of science in economic development, and invest mainly into this field. The private sector also plays a larger role in financing, and it also has a larger influence upon higher education. It is not only the number of university students that has substantially grown in the last couple of decades, but their ethnic and social composition has also become more diverse.

Mr Atta-ur-Rahman, president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences mentioned among the measures of the South Asian country the targeting of the problem of braindrain: those freshly receiving a doctoral degree are entitled a startup capital of 100 000 dollars from an institution of higher education of their choice for commercialising the results of their research. At the same time, the government has granted more than 10 000 scholarships in foreign countries, especially in Europe.

Jordan's former Prime Minister Mr Adnan Badran, president of the private university of Petra in Amman, emphasized that there are differences in the level of development of Middle East countries, but he proposed the aim of investing one percent of GDP into research and development by 2015 for the governments of the region. He reinforced the formerly raised idea that research universities are the new frontiers of higher education.

Mr Francois Taddei, founder of the Center for Research and Interdisciplinary Studies in Paris argued that instead of focusing on quantitative knowledge, higher education has to foster skills helping recognizing and solving problems, cooperation, and handing over knowledge. He mentioned the example of physician Ignaz Semmelweis how a simple, yet life-saving discovery was stubbornly refused by his fellow physicians in the 19th century, to demonstrate that an innovative idea is often not enough, because its transfer to society might still remain a challenge.


You can find more details on this session here.