What is UNIKE?

Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE) is a four year collaborative research project investigating the dynamic relationships between universities and knowledge economies in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific Rim. The project is funded by the European Commission and the actual research is conducted by 12 doctoral fellows and three post-doctoral fellows at  six different universities: Aarhus University, ENS Lyon, Ljubljana University, Roehampton University, the University of Bristol, and Porto University.

The UNIKE project is both training a networked group of critical researchers to be future research leaders, as well as producing original research regarding  the changing roles and scope of universities in emerging global knowledge economies. Many of the researchers are comparing developments in Europe and the Asia-Pacific Rim, and most of the researchers are examining cooperative partnerships between public and private sector institutions and firms. Please see detailed descriptions of the 15 researchers and their individual projects here.

Detailed description of UNIKE research
In Europe, governments have embraced international agendas for university reform (put forward by the European Union, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Economic Forum, UNESCO and the World Bank) on the understanding that the future lies in the development of an ideas-driven competitive global knowledge economy. By arguing that the two ways to compete successfully in this economy are through transfer of research findings into innovative products and through a higher education system that can attract international trade and produce a highly skilled population, universities are placed at the centre of strategies to prosper in this new economic regime. The European approach to competing in the global knowledge economy is to create a European Research Area (ERA) and a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Other kinds of strategies have formed in other world regions. These strategies have to be understood within a geographic shift in emerging centres of power from Europe to the Asia Pacific, and particularly East Asia. The UNIKE project aims to generate new perspectives on the transformation of an institution central to policy projections of the future. While all of the UNIKE researchers cooperate across the project, the research is divided into three collaborative “working groups”:

  • Working Group 1, ‘Concepts and theories’
    The above research suggests the necessity of new theories and methods for comparing and analysing the transformation of universities globally and regionally.

  • Working Group 2, ‘Trends and developments’
    It is increasingly clear that universities can no longer be studied as isolated institutions. Rather, a new ecology of companies, financiers and, government agencies is forming around academic work, whose composition and operations, key concepts, and articulations to the existing sector are, as yet, poorly understood.

  • Working Group 3, ‘Policies and practices’
    The work group is exploring the dynamic relationship between the changing missions and teaching and research practices of universities and their funding, governance, management and regulatory structures.

Detailed description of the research training programme

In addition to being an active research consortium, the UNIKE project is also an EU Initial Training Network (ITN).  Consequently, in addition to formal courses of study at their respective universities, the research fellows are also enrolled in a UNIKE specific course of study.  Each fellow is individually supervised at one of the partner universities, and is also gaining practical experience managing and conducting a large and geographically dispersed research project. For instance, each of the fellows helps to organize and manage at least one of the eight UNIKE project workshops or summer schools.