European Universities and the Challenge of the Market

European Universities and the Challenge of the Market

A Comparative Analysis

Marino Regini

This major volume sheds light on the changing relationship between higher education and the economy in the major European nations. It is the outcome of extensive comparative research on higher education institutions and the economy in six European regions that were specifically chosen due to their similarities in terms of economic development: the English North West, Hesse in Germany, Rhone-Alpes in France, Lombardy in Italy, Catalunyia in Spain and the Netherlands. This unique comparative nature allows the authors to draw out the variations between regions and identify institutional differences.

Chapter 5: The Challenge of the Market

Marino Regini

Subjects: business and management, management and universities, economics and finance, economics of education, education, economics of education, management and universities


Marino Regini Up to a few decades ago, contacts between universities and business were sporadic and rather infrequent, at least in continental Europe. They were two separate worlds with regard to objectives, values, organizational models; and both were firmly convinced that was the way it should be. In fact, as long as universities defined their mission as educating the national elites by socializing them to the values of high culture and the knowledge produced by free research, their inward-looking approach seemed completely justifiable. The professor-scientists were the ones who defined a given field of knowledge, decided how to transmit it and consequently how to organize the institutions where that knowledge was produced and taught. As to the university graduates, they would eventually become part of the economic, professional and cultural elites and usually had no major problems of ‘employability’ – problems that the universities did not at all consider their domain anyway. Similarly, as long as Fordist production systems prevailed in most advanced economies (but not dissimilar was the situation in small-firm areas), recruiting university graduates with suitable qualifications was not the main concern of enterprises. With the exception of some executives and highly skilled engineers, most of the workforce needed only a minimum level of general education and was trained on the job, while technical white-collar workers were usually required to have no more than a secondary school diploma. Applied research was done more in the laboratories of large companies than in partnerships with universities. In short, universities and companies...

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