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Innovation in Higher Education

Innovation ReportRecent innovative practices in higher education range from the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to interactive response systems on students’ technology devices. In an effort to increase our knowledge of how innovation unfolds across the higher education sector, LSE Enterprise and Panteia carried out a study on Innovation in Higher Education| funded by the European Commission, DG Education and Culture.

The report took an innovation systems approach, analysing the functions, components and relationships of a higher education system. It aimed to contribute to the understanding of the challenges affecting higher education and how innovation can support the sector at a time of potentially profound change. It also investigated the main differences among the regional and institutional contexts within which innovation occurs; key stakeholders and system components; and the major outcomes and blockages of innovation in higher education, building on seven case studies from across the globe.

The authors found that new technologies represent enablers of innovative practices, rather than innovations per se. The use of new technologies facilitates the transition from a department-centred to a student-centred vision. Further, innovation often accelerates the development of partnerships between higher education institutions and other organisations, especially businesses. Overall, the case studies suggest that innovations in higher education illustrate two general key aspects of the innovation process: ‘doing new things’ and ‘doing existing things better’.

Recommendations were targeted at both higher education institutions and policymakers. They included addressing blockages to innovation and promoting a culture of innovation at institutions. Technologies for learning and teaching should build on the strengths and distinctive character of an institution, and should involve collaboration between teachers, administrators and IT staff. Recommendations relating to globalisation and internationalisation strategies included increasing support for student mobility and having greater consideration of the needs of different actors.

Further discussion at the EC’s Innovation in Higher Education| event in November 2013 brought together some of the report’s authors with more than 150 leading practitioners, education managers, academics and technology professionals. LSE Director Professor Craig Calhoun, who was on the study’s peer group, represented ‘Higher Education, Innovation and Public Good’ in the high-level panel discussion, while LSE Enterprise’s Deputy Director Niccolo Durazzi was a rapporteur for the event. Dr Steve Ryan, previous Director of the Centre for Learning Technology at LSE and Professor John Brennan, visiting professor at LSE’s Department of Social Policy, also presented.