Beyond the ivory towers

Centres of higher learning often exude a rarefied air. From the spires of Oxford to the lanes of Bologna, a remoteness from local communities and disdain for the commercial world are still a common characterisation, if not a tradition.
This attitude may have to evolve, says a recent OECD report. With their rich source of ideas, services and skilled people, higher education institutions should reach out much more and contribute to the development of their regions. Higher Education and Regions: Globally Competitive, Locally Engaged estimates, for example, that only 10% of UK firms currently interact with universities, with a focus on high-tech fields.Nor is improving corporate relations just about funding for research. Rather, services or cultural aspects intrinsic to many universities, such as museums, libraries, galleries, orchestras or sporting events, should be tapped for local development too. After all, services account for 70% of the OECD workforce, and cultural industries are becoming a major driver globally, accounting for 7% of GDP and growing at 10% annually.           The MIT Industrial Liaison Office is one innovative example, whose membership fee gives companies unlimited access to specialised information services. Co-operation between the University Jaume I in Spain and the Ceramic Industry Research Association has led among other things to the creation of a laboratory to provide quality tests for ceramic products, so enabling the autonomous Valencian Community to excel in the tile and ceramic industry. Asia’s largest film festival, in Busan, Korea, is supported by several higher education institutions.Globally Competitive, Locally Engaged suggests that countries should push such university interaction further. Universities themselves should become more entrepreneurial, for although business is not the aim of academia, higher education institutions are an underexploited link to the global knowledge economy and can open gateways to innovation and growth. For more information, see 9789264034143©OECD Observer No 263, October 2007

Economic data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017