Statement & Presentation Prof. Sim Sitkin
The answer to the question of whether there is a special role for the university in an increasingly competitive environment is both critically important and timely. Not only are universities competing for students, faculty, and resources in an international field rather than a local one, but new media, the rise of inter-disciplinary problems to be addressed, and employer expectations have made the challenge more immediate. I believe that universities do not have a special competitive advantage unless they combine research with the ability to apply advanced knowledge to both teaching and practice. Corporate education and web-based/virtual instruction can compete at a lower price and with greater accessibility – except for the university’s cutting edge research and faculty. Corporate and government sponsored “think tanks” (like Behavioural Insights Team in the UK or ideas42 in the US) can conduct practice-focused research, but lack the capacity to offer research that can offer fundamental change. The challenge for universities is that combining these functions is complex, expensive, and often lacks a clear constituency. But it is not only crucial, in my view, to the future of the university, but also to our societies that need basic research, translational research and education that are not in competition but are mutually supporting.