On This PageWP 2006-08

A New Social Compact: How University Engagement Can Fuel Innovation
Last Updated: 09/29/06
Richard K. Lester feels that colleges and universities, because they are immobile, can replace local institutions whose leadership has been eroded by globalization. However, university attempts to improve the regional economy must be well-planned. North Dakota clearly illustrates benefits of a strategic approach to university and college interaction with the economy. This paper examines the degree to which their Higher Education Roundtable fits into the specific model of engagement proposed by Lester. Much of the specificity of the North Dakota plan came in the implementation, which has been guided by specific accountability measures. Because such measures can not only reflect priorities but also set them, this paper evaluates the new initiatives in North Dakota with an independent set of metrics that assess university efforts to foster innovation. While the two sets of metrics are largely compatible, North Dakota University System does not evaluate qualitative goals throughout the university system. This paper argues that qualitative outputs from higher education are often under reported in assessments of economic and social benefits attributed to universities and colleges.