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Research Questions

  1. What innovations have taken place in higher education delivery in Europe?
  2. What are the motivations, drivers, barriers and ways through which the management of higher education institutions adapt to innovative provision?
  3. What recommendations can be made regarding the role of the university management in innovative provision of higher education?

At a time when more students than ever are attending higher education, its provision is becoming more fluid, global and competitive. For example, developments in new technologies mean that higher education institutions (HEIs) can make their courses available all over the world. These developments bring into question the traditional delivery model of higher education institutions, which tends to be confined to physical — and hence geographically defined — course offerings.

This report examines innovative modes of higher education provision, as well as ways in which the management and governance of higher education are changing in support of innovations in higher education provision. As such, it ties in with the European Commission's objectives to enhance the quality of higher education in an environment where globalisation and the attractiveness of the European higher education area need to be reinforced.

This report also issues policy recommendations regarding the governance and management of new modes of higher education provision in order to enhance the attractiveness and relevance of European higher education and to increase the strategic capacities of HEIs to manage resources efficiently and effectively. Finally, it also promotes an awareness of the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity within Europe by bringing together a team of researchers representing varied backgrounds, organisational cultures and experiences.

Key Findings

'Innovations' include various aspects of education provision, including but not limited to digital innovations.

  • These innovations include changes in teaching methods, curricula and programmes that allow for reaching a different student demographic — for example, through partnerships outside of the university.

Participating institutions have highlighted several examples of promising practices in education provision and governance and management.

  • These promising practices cover examples which add value to the institution and have the proven or expected potential to be transferrable and sustainable.

University governance and management structures and approaches can support innovation in a number of ways.

  • These approaches include expressing a high level institutional commitment and establishing an institution-wide strategy to support innovation; providing institutional, organisational and financial support to innovation; and conducting regular evaluations of the initiatives.


  • HEIs should include innovation objectives, defined in measurable performance targets, in their strategies.
  • HEIs should consider how the types of institutional support, organisational layout, financial incentives and evaluation procedures enhance the institution's innovation potential.
  • HEIs should consider not just investing in technology, but also prioritising training staff and developing support structures to facilitate the inclusion of innovation in a coherent teaching and learning approach.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the European Commission and conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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