Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers: Measuring Higher Education's Role in Economic Development

By Miller, David L. | Planning for Higher Education, July-September 2013 | Go to article overview

Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers: Measuring Higher Education's Role in Economic Development


Miller, David L., Planning for Higher Education


Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers

Measuring Higher Education's Role in Economic Development

Edited by Jason E. Lane and D. Bruce Johnstone

Foreword by Nancy L. Zimpher

State University of New York Press

2012

346 pages

ISBN: 978-1438445014

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

EDUCATIONAL STRATEGISTS Jason E. Lane and D. Bruce Johnstone provide a comprehensive, 360-degree view of current thought on the complex and somewhat nebulous concept of economic development and its effects on campus and beyond in Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers: Measuring Higher Education's Role in Economic Development. Their book represents the first in a series of discussions that began at the State University of New York (SUNY) in 2011 directed at illuminating critical contemporary issues in higher education. Lane and Johnstone's effort provides a forum for scholars from a wide range of disciplines to explore, dissect, and assess current and evolving college and university initiatives across the broad rubrics of economic development and entrepreneurial activity, as well as the policies that support them.

Just as many of the most highly regarded university economic development initiatives result from broad and collaborative inputs, this book represents a wide range of scholarly, yet accessible, analyses that explore the university's role in economic development and how best to implement and track progress toward meaningful results for those who care to move forward within the discipline. In the preface, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher asserts that "higher education is now a major economic driver, and colleges and universities are critical components of national and regional workforce-development strategies and innovation systems" (p. xiv). This book provides a primer for readers inside the university and well beyond who may have an interest in understanding the pivotal role that universities play in energizing innovation, entrepreneurship, and business development activities on a regional, national, and even global level.

For scholars, this book provides a survey of current thought on the challenges and potential successes within this evolving discipline and its relevance to the teaching and research missions of the university. For those in business, government, and policy-making roles, the book highlights numerous practical methods for discerning how best to connect with university talent in order to foster positive collaboration and generate results that will have value for all participants.

In making the case for the powerful intersection between higher education and economic competitiveness, Lane points out that "many nations are involved in the great brain race" (p. 2) as identified by Wildavsky (2010). Lane highlights studies, such as Abel and Dietz (2009), that acknowledge the deep and lasting impact of research universities on the development of an innovation-based economy. Given the wide range of economic development activities occurring across the university spectrum, Lane and Johnstone's goal is to help both insiders and novices better understand the drivers of successful university-related economic development initiatives, their numerous forms, and how they may be evaluated. Lane characterizes the university role in contributing to this effort as important, but not "privilege[d]" (p. 3) with regard to the more traditional missions of higher education.

The diversity of economic development programs and activities across the higher education landscape is almost as broad and disparate as the educational landscape itself.

A recurring theme of the book makes it clear that there are several avenues to success and what may cause activities to flourish and thrive on one campus might not directly transplant to another, even within the same system.

As it turns out, an institution's business development and community engagement activities, in the words of contributors Gais and Wright, "are often complex and sometimes nonlinear, and their effects may be contingent on local contexts, the cumulative effects of prior actions, and technological timing" (p. …

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