Governance of universities and their involvement in S3 (Analytical work) Governance of universities and their involvement in S3 (Analytical work)


Design of an analytical framework to measure and compare the governance of European Universities and their links with Smart specialisation strategies.


Work conducted

  • Design of the analytical framework and of a survey targeting 73 European universities based in 23 EU Member States
  • Implementation of the survey with the support of the network of national experts of the Research & Innovation Observatory (RIO)
  • Survey analysis, conclusions and publication of results


Lessons learned

  • The presence of standardised governance tools are not correlated with the commitment to regional policies. When observing the origins of universities, other factors are involved in the link between the universities and regions (international reputation, geographical origin, and, national R&I strategies pushing universities to commit to S3 governance mechanisms).
  • Recognition of the divide between the multi-scalar actors within the Eastern EU region is paramount. Some HEIs have a low level of governance practices and the ability to implement activities throughout the organisation is a challenge without governance safeguards in place.
  • However, having in place governance tools does not mean automatically a formal involvement in the implementation of S3 according to experts' feedback. Universities' research activities can be aligned with S3 specialisation area(s) without formal commitment in S3 governance mechanism.
  • Human resources and management of financial resources are differentiating factors within the overall university governance systems. These two governance dimensions are in many cases, strongly linked to the national legal framework, allowing universities little flexibility to act directly on these governance aspects. Those two dimensions have a strong impact on the propensity for researchers to use Horizon 2020 funding or ESIF.
  • Governance index scores for universities can be broadly divided according to geographic location: Southern and Eastern European universities lag behind their counterparts from Northern and Western Europe due mainly to lower autonomy in terms of human resources and financial distribution and Northern European universities seem to be better equipped for innovation (IPR, internal support such as Grant office etc.) It suggests that the innovation gap between those geographical areas is also reflected by the governance of universities.
  • S3 governance mechanisms are better embedded in universities with strong governance tradition but concerning the other universities, the absence of formal link between universities and S3 does not mean that no link exists. An important recommendation could be that S3 strategies play a role of synergy facilitator between ESIF and Horizon 2020 and universities.


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