Opportunities and Limitations of the Euniv Concept

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Conference Paper


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Publication Details

Paper presented at the Higher Education in Transformation Conference, Dublin, 31st. May - 1st. April, 2015.

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There is a relatively significant recent growth of discourses regarding the practice of ‘enterprising’ and ‘entrepreneurial’ universities (eg. Gibb and Haskins, 2013, Vostal and Robertson, 2012, Gibb, 2012, Philpott et al, 2011, Kasim, 2011, Weingart and Maasen, 2007, Kirby, 2007). Universities are exhorted to become entrepreneurial and enterprising, both in terms of business-like processes (creating adaptable, flexible and market-responsive structures) and in terms of business-like goals (diversifying revenue streams beyond traditional reliance of government and classical-student tuition revenue streams) (Dart, 2004). Despite widespread discussion, nearly ubiquitous rhetoric and fairly widespread experimentation-at-the-margins, there is as yet very little of empirical or analytical substance to ground serious discussions of significant institutional change in the post-secondary education sector. Perhaps because of their important role in many nations as fundamental social institutions, the pressures to marketize and/or commercialize universities - the pressures to become dramatically enterprising – have only occurred more recently in the university sector than in the broader civil society, nonprofit and charitable sectors. Here, the movement for ‘enterprising nonprofits’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’ (Hansmann, 1980, Young, 1980) began much earlier and became mainstream discourse almost twenty years ago (Emerson and Twersky, 1996, Leadbeater, 1997, Dees, Emerson and Economy, 2002). Here the experience with the evolution of both the idea and the practice of an ‘enterprising’ field has been much more widespread and much more developed. This paper proposes to examine both the hopes and rhetorics of the ‘enterprising nonprofit’ field, as well as the ensuing empirical experience of nonprofits as they reposition themselves along various locations of the ‘social enterprise continuum’ in order to develop some postulates for those planning and/or implementing ‘enterprising university’ reform to consider. Based on the experience of the social enterprise and ‘enterprising nonprofits’ fields, this paper will discuss several fundamental themes from which may be germinal to discussions of a similar kind of discursive and practice field in the postsecondary education sector. Themes developed in the paper will include … 1. the oft-documented role of ‘enterprising’ discourse in the creation and maintenance of organizational legitimacy and organizational identity (Grant and Dart, 2014, Dart, 2004b), 2. the frequently overestimated capacity for commercial or ‘alternative’ revenue generation that is found in ‘enterprising’ organizations which attempt to redeploy into new markets (eg Dart et al, 2010), 3. the underappreciated role of unlabeled ‘enterprising’ activities which have long taken place in the sector, prior to any policy directives to be more entrepreneurial (Dees, Emerson and Economy, 2002), 4. the manners in which ‘enterprising’ can overshadow opportunities for both innovation and revenue generation more central to and accessible to the more ‘traditional’ elements of the operation (Oster, 2004, Bryson, 2008).

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