Strategies for Interaction and the Role of Higher Education Institutions in Regional Development in the Nordic Countries

This synthesis report summarizes the results of a research project for the Nordic Council of Ministers on the role of higher education institutions (HEI) in regional development. Nordregio Report 2012:2.

The report includes a brief comparison of Nordic policies supporting HEI collaboration, a quantitative pilot study on student mobility in Sweden and eight cases studies on strategies and activities for external collaboration in Nordic HEI. Focus of the study is on the various roles of higher education institutions (HEI) in regional development. Important issues concern different strategies and incentives for university collaboration with external parties. This report is supplemented with a case study report.

The roles and strategies of HEI in regional development

The roles of HEIs in regional development are discussed in terms of general economic impact, the traditional roles (of education and research), the third role (of collaboration with the surrounding society) and the broader role as an engaged university. Apart from the direct effects of the various roles, it is argued that HEIs also have an indirect effect on regional image and attractiveness. For HEIs to support regional development, three mechanisms have been identified; integrating regional development into university strategies, taking active part in regional partnerships and developing internal cultures, attitudes and incentives.

Policy implications

From a policy perspective, various regional and national initiatives to support increased HEI participation in regional development are identified;

  • The formation of regional partnerships
  • Stimulating cluster development through multi-sector policy initiatives
  • Creating an attractive region for students, staff and business
  • Clarifying the expectations of different types of HEIs
  • Developing a Nordic system for HEI quality assessment and ranking.