“To strengthen the regional contribution to national growth and make government policies more regionally relevant and effective in engaging with diverse regional communities, the Review Team recommends that the government introduces discretionary funds to support the structural and collaborative requirements for HEIs to purposefully pursue regional engagement. For the government to be able to introduce discretionary funds to support HEIs’ regional engagement instead of ad hoc program initiatives, the Peer Review Team recommends a creation of strong evaluation framework that can show the the HEI contribution to agreed regional outcomes and partnerships.”
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The Twente region has a well founded international reputation for innovation and entrepreneurialism. There are a number of highly innovative and unique initiatives that contribute to this reputation. The HEIs in the region are at the forefront of stimulating and partnering in these good practice initiatives. Nevertheless, as a region Twente lags behind national performance aggregates in a number of areas. This suggests some incongruity or incompleteness associated with the current entrepreneurialism and innovation strategy.
The Peer Review Team believes that much more can be achieved in Twente with its entrepreneurialism and innovation agenda by taking a wider and deeper approach to the region’s human capital potential through more focussed and collaborative action by the region’s higher education institutions. We feel there is a need for a complementary strategy for the region that focuses on dismantling the barriers to innovation and entrepreneurialism in all areas of the region’s human capital that may have become unknowingly erected through the current approach. In particular, to ensure that the current strategy of innovation and entrepreneurialism realises outcomes of sustainable significance we feel the focus on the region’s human capital should be on realising its enterprising potential, in other words, enhancing the region’s capacity for realising on-the-ground outcomes throughout the regional community from its innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
The current mechanisms in the region for facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship are limited in two key areas: First, they are concentrated in their vertical reach to a particular segment of the region’s human
capital that has high level technical academic exposure and an enthusiasm and direction for advancement. These are generally a small cohort of the population, predominantly highly educated males, generally in the ages 20 to 35 years. It generally tends not to extend to other areas of available regional human resources such as those in primary and secondary education, those in older age categories, as well as those in the “non-innovative areas” of regional society. A sub-element of this is that there is a concentration of innovation and entrepreneurial effort to the main urban areas to the exclusion of the more peripheral rural communities in the region.
Second, they are concentrated in their horizontal reach to the process of idea generation and its conversion into products and processes but there is limited transmittal or translation into outcomes of meaningful usefulness for society and the environment locally or globally (i.e. market penetration and growth). This connotes the need for skills in business strategy, product development, risk assessment, accessing business finance, human resource management and so on. Such an approach requires complementary comprehension of the way society works and how it can be a supportive milieu for sustainable development, and a focus on outcomes that is timely in this regard.
The result from these two limitations is that invisible barriers have been erected to the achievement of greater regional outcomes by limiting the realisation of the full potential of the region’s human capital. Our observation from the review process is that there are a number of key instruments that can be used as vehicles to enhance the reach of an enterprising human capital agenda for the Twente region that involve the HEIs. These instruments would add value to the current regional strategy of innovation and entrepreneurship and would include the wider application of some existing innovative initiatives, more collaborative action on a number of additional fronts, and changes to government policy.
8.2 Collation of recommendations to HEIs in the region
8.2.1 Towards a more strategic approach
The Peer Review Team commends the Regional Steering Committee of the project for bringing the higher education institutions together for the first time to carry out a collective dialogue on regional matters of importance to Twente. While the Self- Evaluation Report was a major effort led by the Saxion UPE we recommend that the region creates mechanisms to ensure that the learning process bringing together the higher education institutions and the regional stakeholders will not be a one-off activity but will continue and grow.
The Peer Review Team recommends that all the region’s HEIs participate in a regional Higher Education Association (HEA), to continue the good work initiated through the Steering Group for this project. An HEA is an association of regional HEIs involving strategic participation at the most senior level (Rector/President), with its work delivered through a number of working groups undertaken by Executive Board level staff. We believe that the establishment of a new Hoger Onderwijs Twente (HOT) of this kind will greatly help in strategically joining up all the work undertaken in the region, and demonstrate to other regional partners the ways that diverse activities can be integrated for a greater regional good. The success of HOT is dependent on it having genuinely new flexible resources to achieve these tasks, giving the HEIs the resources to work collectively, and linking this work with the Innovation Platform Twente.
A central task for HOT will be to co-ordinate the development of a Twente “Human Capital Strategy” plan extending from the early and primary school education to life long learning based on a regional knowledge audit, encompassing all levels of education. The HOT would also undertake a comprehensive audit of institutional strategies, missions, funding streams and identified human resources which are supporting regional engagement across the various regional agents and agencies. We further recommend this audit be used to embed best practice at the highest level of the HEIs in the region.
8.2.2 Building bridges and open dialogue
The Peer Review Team commends the University of Twente and Saxion UPE for their close cooperation to ensure that there are well defined student progression pathways between the institutions. In this regard the Peer Review Team makes the following recommendations to take this further throughout the region.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the HEIs give consideration to systematising the links and pathways between the region’s HEIs and between HEIs and lower level institutions to identify areas that can be strengthened. We also recommend that HEIs, as autonomous bodies with commitment to their location, actively seek ways to contribute to helping with the general upwards movement of individuals, by widening the appeal of their courses and services throughout the region and working with regional businesses and the community’s action plans to help them begin to be enterprising and learning. We also suggest that such an approach consider designing and delivering education programmes within HEIs which support the development of social enterprise skills throughout the Twente region.
The Peer Review Team recommends the adoption of a mechanism to systematically identify where communities are mobilising themselves, going into these communities as partners. It is important that it is not only the flagship projects, as defined for example through the regional economic development plan, the airbase closure strategy and the Innovation Platform that are writ large in the region, but that a myriad of other initiatives large and small are also incorporated. This will transform the scope of what those projects will achieve, injecting extra vitality on social enterprising (through credit earning and/or voluntary student work, internships, mobilising the
student societies, and so on).
The Peer Review Team recommends that ongoing demonstration programmes are introduced to highlight how innovative products and processes can be adopted in all levels and spheres of the Twente region society. This can be manifested in the form of annual knowledge festivals, product and process demonstrations in public spaces, etc. The Peer Review Team recommends highlighting the profile of the HEIs within the region as places to which all people can aspire, and where all people can learn the skills and make the connections to take more control over and responsibility for their local environments. There is a need to explain how the particular sectors within the Innovation Platform will transform the lives of local people throughout all quarters of the Twente region. We recommend that all HEIs create physical locations of across the region where locals can begin to feel comfortable with engaging in learning with the assistance of the HEIs.
The Peer Review Team recommends that Twente’s HEIs place more effort in promoting their contribution to the social, environmental, and cultural development of the region. Moreover, the Review Team recommends that serious consideration be given to how these social, environmental and cultural activities, particularly those which engage with excluded and deprived communities, can be used to empower and upskill those groups, and help move them towards a position of sustainable lifelong learning.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the HEI/region interface be strategically managed, in such a way that all people in the region have a ” feeling” for the region’s HEIs, and understand what the HEIs can easily offer them when they have particular needs. The Review Team recommends that all the HEIs open a dialogue with regional stakeholders, with particular regard for building communications with individuals and communities who might believe that higher education is not for them.
8.2.3 Enhancing education
The Peer Review Team believes that the region and its HEIs – as a matter of urgency – address the low participation issue through raising the aspirations of young people and the region’s residents generally. This can be done through engaging educational institutions with the community and reaching out to schools, business, institutions and organisations of various kinds, and key issues of regional concern. This will be most effective if engagement is channelled through visible projects which demonstrate their relevance to regional communities. The Peer Review Team makes the following recommendations to assist with this objective.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the proposed HOT undertake a review of teaching and learning programmes and courses that currently exist with the region with a view of establishing stronger synergies and pathways to enable a greater reach throughout the community across the different local communities as well as the different socio-economic and demographic groups. It should also review existing entrepreneurship education programmes and examine whether marketing and commercialization aspects or any other issues (such as partnerships, pathways, flexibility in delivery arrangements, etc.) that are relevant could be further developed to enhance the reach and completeness of these teaching and learning initiatives for the benefit of the region as a whole. This would also include encouraging the uptake of such programmes by other education institutions, such as lower and medium professional education institutions and even secondary and primary education schools.
The Peer Review Team recommends that HEIs (including TSM/SWOT and ITC) actively seek ways to extend and adapt their current adult education programmes for the benefit of lower and middle layers of the human capital pyramid in Twente. The Peer Review Team recommends that HEIs cooperate with lower level educational institutions e.g. through the development of joint education programmes. We also recommend cooperation (e.g. student placements) with companies, which employ graduates from these institutions.
8.2.4. Enhancing community building
The Peer Review Team proposes several recommendations that seek to build the social, cultural and environmental basis of the region.
The Peer Review Team recommends that Twente’s HEIs place more effort in promoting their contribution to the social development of the region. A solid social foundation in the region will provide a basis for greater regional outcomes to occur from its innovation and entrepreneurial strategies. Moreover, the Review Team believes that serious consideration be given to how these social initiatives, particularly those which engage with excluded and deprived communities, can be used to empower and upskill those groups, and help move them towards a position of sustainable lifelong learning. Because the economic pay-offs from this are long-term, we believe that it will require a significant commitment from HEIs and local, regional and provincial partners to achieve this. The long-term commitment is of vital importance if regional partners are serious about
addressing many of the weaknesses identified in the Regional Human Capital Pyramid.
The Peer Review Team recommends that a specific Green Campus strategy is formulated that embraces sustainable environment principles that relate to all campus functions. This could be undertaken collaboratively by all education institutions on a whole-of-Twente region basis. The Peer Review Team recommends that the HEIs in Twente jointly agree an approach to enhance sustainability outcomes for the region that bring together their collective expertise, programmes, experiences and leadership and that they each develop sustainable practice strategies for their own institutions and for the region as a whole. There are many opportunities to work with
the province, local authorities and local enterprises concerned with technology applied to solving environmental issues such as water quality, air quality and waste minimisation. There may be opportunities in this area for inclusion, for example, in the Kennispark initiative
Collation of recommendations to regional stakeholders
The Peer Review Team commends the region for the progress it made in consolidating leadership through the establishment of the Innovation Platform Twente. We recognise that the five clusters identified by the platform are consistent with the national policy framework as set up in Pieken. While the five sectoral thematic areas are well targeted, the Peer Review Team feels a more inclusive regional engagement approach could be achieved by introducing a common link to connect the five themes i.e. the addition of the 6th, cross-cutting, theme: addressing the question of human capital.
The Peer Review Team recommends that Twente formalises the co-operation between regional HEIs into a structural mechanism (which we have named a Hoger Onderwijs Twente or HOT), producing a strategy and implementation plan for a full “Human Capital Plan for Twente”.
The Peer Review Team commends the region and its universities for their entrepreneurial activities and in particular their record of producing spin-off companies. We however believe that delivering the high level message of entrepreneurship is not a completed task and has not been fully carried out across the region and the whole Human Capital chain. We recommend the region brand itself as the entrepreneurial or enterprising region, as “a place where people get things done”. However, in order for the reality of an Enterprising Twente to match the brand, there is a need for a more systematic approach in disseminating good practices in regional engagement between institutions, and ensuring HEIs work with communities at all levels.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the next strategic step in improving Twente’s performance is in extending successful modes of engagement from high-technology communities into promoting economic, social and environmental development in excluded inner-city and rural communities. The Peer Review Team recommends that a formal mechanism be created so that when flagship projects are announced, the HEIs automatically produce a collective response. This response will focus on ensuring that individuals and teams within the HEIs who have something to offer to particular projects have the physical, organisational and financial opportunity and encouragement to co-develop these projects.
8.4 Consideration for future policy development and implementation at national level
The majority of our comments and recommendations are addressed to the Twente region and its HEIs. However, the policy context for that region is national. We have described the attitude of central government elsewhere in the report. Recommendations reproduced below exhort “the Hague”, and particularly the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, to “buy-in” more fully and openly to regionalism. The other general lesson emerging from the Twente review concerns the need for joined up governance. The following recommendations are therefore directed at the National Government to ensure there is a strong policy and programme connection that takes into account the diversity of Netherlands regions that will enable them to more fully unlock their potential.
The Peer Review further recommends that the Ministry of Education compiles basic information on the geography of higher education within the national territory including identification, for the higher education system as a whole, which courses are taught where, the home origins of students and where graduates enter into the labour market. The analyses need to be benchmarked against regional data on participation in higher education and industrial and occupational structure to identify areas of under and over provision. The mapping task need to identify the steps between different levels of education system – schools, further/vocational education colleges, higher education, post graduate institutions – to assess how far the regional pattern of provision assists/inhibits access and progress of students. In short, geographical analysis should highlight the fact that lifelong learning is an agenda that should be responsive to the needs of people in places.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the government, through the region’s leadership, take note of the strategic initiatives that can be undertaken by the region’s HEIs and provide the facilitative support required to assist to bring the regional plans to fruition. This will involve assistance in bringing about the necessary structural and behavioural change within the HEIs themselves and in their relations with wider regional stakeholders.
To strengthen the regional contribution to national growth and make government policies more regionally relevant and effective in engaging with diverse regional communities, the Review Team recommends that the government introduces discretionary funds to support the structural and collaborative requirements for HEIs to purposefully pursue regional engagement. For the government to be able to introduce discretionary funds to support HEIs’ regional engagement instead of ad hoc program initiatives, the Peer Review Team recommends a creation of strong evaluation framework that can show the the HEI contribution to agreed regional outcomes and partnerships.
The Peer Review Team recommends to national policy makers to consider introducing a funding instrument to support innovative and structural co-operation between HEIs to promote regional economic development.
Noting the important contribution that HEIs can make to long-term social, cultural, environmental, and civic development that underpins and sustains economic development the Peer Review Team recommends consultation between relevant national and regional authorities about ways of financially supporting these dimensions of HEIs’ regional mission.
The Peer Review Team recommends that the experimental nature of HEI-regional linkages in Twente is acknowledged as good practice at the provincial and national level, and that further funding is found to explore more systematic linkages. This would unlock the latent innovative potential of many of the excluded communities in the region, and therefore improve the region’s overall contribution to the Netherlands meeting the Lisbon agenda targets.