The use of HEInnovate in Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania
For members of Kaunas University of Technology HEInnovate was introduced during a period of ongoing institutional change and increasing leaning towards entrepreneurship and interdisciplinary studies. The organised workshop not only led to an extensive growth in awareness of HEInnovate across the community, it was an excellent opportunity to engage with multiple business stakeholders in a shared discourse. Members of the University noted the impact of social partners (business parks, leading industry businesses) on the quality of studies. Therefore, engaging with businesses within the framework of HEInnovate provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the direction of the University and how much this direction is aligned with the expectations of businesses.
From the University’s side it was equally important to have a good mix of representatives from the entire community attending the workshop, including students, academics, administrative staff, and the University’s leadership. Most of the participants (85%) were unfamiliar with HEInnovate prior to the workshop, which however acted as a catalyst for inspiring the community to be more involved in shaping the entrepreneurial environment in the University.
Some of the academic participants highlighted the similarities between the topics of HEInnovate and the direction Kaunas University of Technology strives to move towards in terms of developing entrepreneurship and interdisciplinary approaches across all levels of the institution and encouraging a mutual dialogue between HEIs and businesses. While interdisciplinarity has been forming the basis of the study programmes, faculty members now believe that HEInnovate could provide guidance to clarify the goals and objectives for the institution. A particular point was made about engaging with business stakeholders within the framework of HEInnovate as a major benefit for the University and those responsible for evolving the study programmes.
This relates to the institutional strategy which is divided across two value chains: studies and research and development. The latter is an important aspect to the University (especially considering the investments made for the R&D infrastructure), but it is the study value chain where workshop participants believed HEInnovate would yield more benefits in the current environment. The University is undergoing institutional changes aimed at strengthening the institution’s position both locally and internationally (in the Baltic Region, Central and Eastern Europe). The University has already implemented tools to monitor the process of changing the curriculum, including an internal survey system assessing the quality of studies. After the workshop, participants had a clear idea of how HEInnovate could improve these tools, and what new methods could be implemented in order to increase the quality of education. This experience demonstrates how HEInnovate can act as a facilitator for fostering entrepreneurship in higher education institutions (with discourse and best practices); however, it is still the responsibility of the institution to recognise areas in need of change and act upon them.
Of the lessons learned, special attention was brought to the inclusion of both the student and academic perspectives when gathering feedback with monitoring and assessment tools. Considering that the institution is focusing on strengthening its position as an entrepreneurial university through promotion of interdisciplinary studies, this feedback becomes a necessary resource allowing to quickly react to changes and suggestions from the University’s community. As a motivating factor for taking action, the HEInnovate workshop shows promising results with 70% of the participants expressing that the workshop inspired them to take action in implementing change in the University (almost half of the participants were demonstrating especially high enthusiasm).