AN EXCLUSIVE international club of ten "innovative" universities is preparing for a smash-and-grab raid on European funding pots.
The European Consortium of Innovative Universities, whose members include Strathclyde and Warwick, has set its sights on the multi-billion pound Framework V programme for research and European money for course development, industry links and regional growth.
Leaders of the two-year-old consortium, which met at the University of Twente in the Netherlands this week, said they expected to capitalise on the growing strength of their select network, which they described as "a kind of European Russell group". They were "unlikely" to accept new members.
They believe their "get up and go" vision of an entrepreneurial approach to higher education, outlined in a book launched at the meeting, will give them an advantage over more traditional universities.
Peter West, secretary of Strathclyde University, said the consortium was in a position to prepare joint bids for a "smash- and-grab raid on Framework V funding. It is also planning joint European doctorate and masters programmes; joint short courses for industry; benchmarking approaches to a range of activities including teaching; and regional strategies.
Burton Clark, whose book Creating Entrepreneurial Universities has been adopted by the consortium as a bible, urged the group to spread the word. "Everyone is worrying about what governments are doing, when they need to be talking about what institutions should be doing," he said.
To be innovative a university must: * Create a "strengthened steering core"
* Expand its "developmental periphery", for example through outreach offices working on knowledge transfer
* Diversify its funding base as government support is cut. This increases autonomy and the ability to respond to demand
* Stimulate the "academic heartland" by winning the hearts and minds of academics
* Develop an entrepreneurial culture
* Have fun (a sixth unofficial element added at the Twente meeting by Warwick registrar Mike Shattock).
TWENTE TWENTE VISION THAT IS TAKING IT INTO THE FUTURE
After recruitment problems in the 1960s and 1970s, the University of Twente introduced a stronger central administration and a decentralised budget system, which allowed it to take off as an entrepreneurial institution.
Outreach units and research centres, including a "privatised" business school, boosted links with industry. Graduates and researchers were encouraged to start up their own companies through temporary placements in spin-off companies. A high-profile example of research development was Twente's Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies.
Student numbers have grown from 2,900 in 1980 to 7,300 a decade later, and postgraduate numbers from 100 in 1990 to more than 600 in 1995.
The University of Strathclyde is one of the consortium's founding members. In 1996 it celebrated a bicentennial as "200 years of useful learning". A mechanics' institute turned technical college turned technological university, it is hailed in Professor Clark's book for its "get up and go" outlook.
This was fostered by the university management group, to which academics elected deans. A research and development services unit expanded links with outside groups. This was backed up by a growing number of outward-looking interdisciplinary research centres, and the appointment of an intellectual property officer who built up a portfolio of commercially viable patents.
Departmental income has grown from under $1million in 1991 to over $5 million in 1997. Core funding has fallen as a proportion of total income from 75 per cent in 1970 to 45 per cent in 1995, while funding from other sources apart from research councils has grown from 14 per cent to 51 per cent of the total.
The other eight universities in the consortium are Warwick, Aarlborg, Joensuu, Dortmund, Hamburg Technical, Chalmers, Aveiro, and Barcelona Autonomous.