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A new Research Competence Framework for Professional Higher Education

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Laura Eigbrecht, Marina Brunner, Ruth Moran, John Bartlett und Ulf-Daniel Ehlers

Governance & Management

A new Research Competence Framework for Professional Higher Education

Implementing a tool for enhancing research capacities in Applied Science PHEIs

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe make major contributions to their hometowns, metropolitan areas and regions. But how important are they exactly? And how can they improve their collaboration with business enterprises and contribute to regional innovation systems? These are highly relevant questions in this time where HEIs are often seen as core contributors to educated societies and resilient economies, yet nobody seems to have any convincing answers. Addressing this knowledge gap, through the establishment of a new competence framework for HEIs, specifically Professional Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs), is the main aim of this article.

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Applied research activities play an essential role in enhancing students' skills including their innovative thinking, problem solving and entrepreneurship. The initiative for Enhancing Staff Research and Innovation Capacity in Professional Higher Education (RECAPHE) sets out to promote and facilitate the research and innovation relation PHEIs have with their regional environment in order to foster innovation. RECAPHE, for the first time, is defining specific competences needed for conducting research in PHEIs and Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). The article presents the RECAPHE Research Competence Framework with a specific focus on its applicability for PHEIs. It serves as a basis for different approaches to research capacity building: for students, researchers and other target groups directly involved in research, but also for institutional governance, human resources and training management, where it can serve as an orientation for qualifying existing and hiring new staff.

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Conclusion
No large-scale systematic study has so far been undertaken to assess why some HEIs are much less inclined, or much more, than others to engage locally or regionally. We lack the appropriate information sources to conduct systematic studies based on comparative empirical evidence. Additionally, regional engagement is often not considered a key criterion for promotion of professors, nor are there prestigious prizes to be won by academics for such ‘third mission’ activities. As a result, such engagement is too often dependent on the drive and motivation of a few individuals, rather than pursued as an organization-wide ambition.

Setting up the RECAPHE Competence Framework has been one step to promote research and regional impact for PHEIs. This is an ongoing process of better understanding, strengthening and promoting applied research in Europe, focusing on PHEIs. The Competence Framework serves as a basis for different approaches to research capacity building: for students, researchers and other target groups directly involved in research, but also for institutional governance, human resources and training management, where it can serve as an orientation for qualifying existing and hiring new staff.

RECAPHE will develop further resources such as training materials in order to promote applied research capacity building – and is open to engage in discussion on how to do so best. After all, it is about not less than strengthening applied research in PHEIs all over Europe – and thus also about strengthening regional innovation and development.

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