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Are universities and university research under threat? Towards an evolutionary model of university speciation


  • Ben R. Martin


According to some, universities and academic research are under threat. As we move towards a more knowledge-intensive economy, academics face pressures to link their work more closely to economic needs, with potentially adverse long-term consequences. This has been characterised as a fundamental change in the 'social contract' between universities and the state, with the latter now having more specific expectations regarding the outputs sought from the former. Others have described this as a transition from 'Mode 1' to 'Mode 2' knowledge production, or in terms of the emergence of a 'Triple Helix' relationship between universities, government and industry. This article critically examines these claims, setting them in historical context. We analyse the history of the university and its evolving functions as it responded to changing external demands. Adopting an evolutionary model, we describe how different university 'species' emerged and co-evolved, each with different emphases on the functions of teaching, research and contributing to the economy and society. Turning to the current environment facing universities, we identify the main drivers for change and assess their likely impact, before arriving at conclusions about the future of the university and university research. What we are witnessing today appears to be not so much the appearance of a new (and hence worrying) phenomenon, but more a shift back towards a social contract for the university closer to the one in effect before the second half of the twentieth century--one which, as it did then, may bring about the emergence of new university species. Copyright The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben R. Martin, 2012. "Are universities and university research under threat? Towards an evolutionary model of university speciation," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 543-565.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:36:y:2012:i:3:p:543-565

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    Cited by:

    1. Katerina Sideri & Andreas Panagopoulos, 2016. "Setting up a Technology Commercialization Office at a Non-Entrepreneurial University: An Insider's Look at Practices and Culture," Working Papers 1609, University of Crete, Department of Economics.
    2. O’Kane, Conor & Mangematin, Vincent & Geoghegan, Will & Fitzgerald, Ciara, 2015. "University technology transfer offices: The search for identity to build legitimacy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 421-437.
    3. Aurora García-Gallego & Nikolaos Georgantzís & Joan Martín-Montaner & Teodosio Pérez-Amaral, 2015. "(How) Do research and administrative duties affect university professors' teaching?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(45), pages 4868-4883, September.
    4. Hodder Rupert, 2016. "Global South and North: Why Informality Matters," New Global Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 10(2), pages 113-131, July.
    5. Sánchez-Barrioluengo, Mabel, 2014. "Articulating the ‘three-missions’ in Spanish universities," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(10), pages 1760-1773.
    6. Estrada, Isabel & Faems, Dries & Martin Cruz, Natalia & Perez Santana, Pilar, 2016. "The role of interpartner dissimilarities in Industry-University alliances: Insights from a comparative case study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 2008-2022.
    7. Rómulo Pinheiro & Bjørn Stensaker, 2014. "Designing the Entrepreneurial University: The Interpretation of a Global Idea," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 497-516, December.
    8. Haskel, J & Haskel, J & Hughes, A & Bascavusoglu-Moreau, E, 2014. "The economic significance of the UK science base: a report for the Campaign for Science and Engineering," Working Papers 13751, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
    9. Timothy Clark & Steven W. Floyd & Mike Wright, 2013. "In Search of the Impactful and the Interesting: Swings of the Pendulum?," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(8), pages 1358-1373, December.
    10. Enrico Deiaco & Alan Hughes & Maureen McKelvey, 2012. "Universities as strategic actors in the knowledge economy," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 525-541.
    11. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:5:p:881-897 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:spr:scient:v:114:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2561-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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