Chronicle of 1st D-TRANSFORM Leadership School – Day 5 Final (Nov. 18th, 2016)

by Jean-François Colas, UOC Doctoral School

Pillars, bricks and coins in the spotlight of a ludic and particularly dynamic last Working Session on ‘Strategies for HE in the national context’ led by Susanna Sancassani (Politecnico di Milano – METID). For wrapping up the 1st D-TRANSFORM Leadership School and incorporating the information distributed during the previous 4 days, participants were invited to build, through hands-on activities, their own innovation strategy for their university. The 4 main pillars at hand, representing each a possible strategy, were: Assets (to build strategies), Teachers engagement strategies, tools for monitoring/evaluating, and Innovation Drivers. In a first part, participants were asked to let their imagination flow freely—that is regardless of the cost involved—to decide what pillar they would favor in their university and what bricks they would use to build it. Examples of available bricks were: Teacher engagement, Student engagement, Digital enabled classrooms, Digital libraries, Learning Analytics, MOOCs, Good practices evaluation and sharing, Teaching learning center, Peer evaluating of teaching practices, Career incentives, Quality assessment, … you name it. In a second part they were to select among 5 distinct sources of funding (EU international funds, Regional/local funds, Governmental national funds, International university funds, Private funds) the one where they thought it was the most reasonable to find money/coins. Then they had to distribute these coins in the pillar(s) and brick(s) of their choice and debate, explain the funding choices made. Interestingly, of the 3 groups that were formed, 2 chose ‘Teacher engagement’ as their most funded pillar, the third group selecting ‘Innovation driver’. As for the most funded bricks, ‘Learning analytics’, ‘Learn to know your learner’ and ‘Clear and shared strategy’ won the strategists’ debate. EU and Governmental funds were the preferred sources whereas Regional funds were considered marginal. This prompted the comment that there may lie an opportunity to change universities mindset. They could try to transform and see themselves as local actor in the digital innovation process, although this could come at the expense of loosing ground in the global competition. In this regard then, the EU level of action with a better European funding of entities at the regional level appeared as the funding strategy making most sense for the audience, although the french colleagues were more inclined towards national level funding solutions.

In the last Keynote of the School, Ignasi López-Verdeguer (RRI Tools – La Caixa Foundation) introduced the audience to the concept of ‘Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI)’ in his presentation entitled ‘RRI in the strategy for the HE digital transformation’. RRI is an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation ( He exposed the current challenges in the relation between science and society and how RRI can help overcome them by bringing science closer to people. Publicly funded science should become an overtly public enterprise rather than one conducted behind closed laboratory and library doors. We must ask not just what the University is good at, but what it is good for. Academic knowledge, creativity and expertise should be put to work to help make a difference to real world challenges. To help doing so and put RRI in practice, there is a lot of existing, useful resources but they are largely invisible. Thus, López-Verdeguer created the RRI Toolkit ( a digital platform facilitating practical guidelines and recommended resources for the Research community, that help overcome challenges in Research and Innovation, such as, for example: ‘How to put gender equality in practice’ or ‘How to set up collaboratively a research agenda’. Other aspects that RRI may cover are public engagement, science ethics, science education, open access and governance.

Marta Aymerich (UOC’s Vicepresident) revisited some of the most remarkable comments made during the week to prepare Higher Education leaders to become the change makers of the university of tomorrow, and Françoise Thibault (FMSH vice-president) closed the event by inviting (together with Anne Boyer; UL) the attendees to the 2nd Leadership school that will be held on May 19-24th, 2017 in Nancy & Paris, organized by the University of Lorraine with the ICDE and UNIT Foundation. Back to School in just 6 months.

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