(February 2011) Educational institutions - incubators for a holistic regional development?

Educational institutions - incubators for a holistic regional development? image

Educational institutions - incubators for a holistic regional development?

Triggered by the Lissbon Agenda, the current debate in regional politics, economics and development focus on the concept of the knowledge society, referring to a knowledge based economy driven by human capital and innovation. Together with the key resource knowledge they constitute the main drivers to enhance competitiveness and approach the targets of reducing regional disparities and ensuring equivalent living conditions.

Educational institutions are given an ever more important role by politics and economics as their main function lies in the generation and diffusion of knowledge through R&D, qualification and competence building. Throughout the different levels of educational infrastructure the tertiary education attracts special attention. The focus of the PhD thesis lies on Universities of Applied Sciences as they are characterized by two factors, which are interesting from a regional and spatial-planning perspective: regionalisation and practical relevance. Numerous surveys have been conducted to measure their effects on the regional economy. The majority of these research activities refer to the short-term economic effects triggered by the service provision, including effects of personnel, material and consumption expenditure. On the other hand the focus lies on the measurement of education policy goals: equality of education opportunity, enhancement of cooperations between education and economy, raise of education level etc. Due to the different focal points these surveys have two aspects in common: the sole focus on economic impacts as well as the renunciation of the spatial dimension.

The thesis aims to investigate the impacts of the Universities of Applied Sciences within the framework of a holistic regional development, concerning the social, sociocultural, economic and spatial dimension. Under the guiding principle of the establishment of equivalent living conditions the research question is: Which impacts of the Universities of Applied Sciences on regional development processes can be identified and how do they take effect?

The selection of the research method is based on two requirements: a) the method has to be approbated in the area of the object of investigation and b) an (at least theoretically existing) consideration of the spatial dimension has to be considered. A method that meets these requirements is the Regional Incident Analysis, a form of cost-benefit analysis till now mainly employed in economic investigations. Within the methodological framework of the Regional Incident Analysis the thesis investigates the favourable and discriminatory effects of the University of Applied Sciences and their spatial implications. In this respect following steps will have to be taken:

  • initial clarification and definition of the term "holistic regional development"
  • literature based development of indicators which reflect social, sociocultural, economic and spatial effects
  • definition of the spatial dimension and the time frame.

For the collection of data quantitative (secondary statistics) as well as qualitative (questionnaire, structured interview) methods will be applied for five case studies in Austria.

The aim of the survey is an encouragement of the holistic comprehension of regional development processes and a methodological contribution to substantiate this holistic approach.