Forum Tracks

Responsibility of Higher Education Systems: What? Why? How?

The Forum will be hosted by the Leiden University in Leiden, the Netherlands

The 41st EAIR Forum addresses the responsibility of higher education systems in three main questions: What? Why? How?. We are looking for answers on pressing questions, on experiences of universities, their members and their stakeholders, on lessons learned, discussions and exchange about the topic of responsibility of the Higher Education System.

The tracks of this conference allow a variety of perspectives on this subject. This makes it possible to recognize the diverse excellence of the higher education system and higher education institutions worldwide.

Governance and the Responsible University

Track Chairs:
Rosalind Pritchard • University of Ulster, United Kingdom and Frans de Vijlder • HAN University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

The greatest recent revolution in higher education (HE) has been the application of a neoliberal model
to universities. This is a profound challenge to its traditional values, but also a call to responsibility if standards ever slip, academics become out-of-touch, students grow complacent or management is brutal. The idea of responsibility touches every aspect of university functioning, pointing up tensions that inhere in the institutions. One person’s “freedom” can become another person’s servitude.

  • How can the idea of academic freedom be reconciled with the economic demand for HEIs to be financially viable; to climb the league tables; to construct course programmes that are useful to employers; to produce useful research? How can academics ensure that students are academically challenged, and not over-indulged in the interests of making them “feel good” (e.g. the so-called “snowflake generation”)? What about liberty of speech? How far should universities go to support unpopular platforms that may contain racist or sexist viewpoints? Is there a stage at which “widening access” policies become irresponsible?
  • The concept of the private value of HE has been used to justify some countries in passing on tuition costs to students and their parents, but what of the public value of HE to society? Does it now need advocacy? How can universities best exercise public responsibility towards their host “body politic”? And in what ways might they show lack of public responsibility, or even become straightforwardly irresponsible — this being the opposite of “responsible”? Are there examples of perversities or even corruption within the system? Are private HEIs, perhaps including “for profit” ones, as “responsible” as public HEIs?
  • Responsibility needs to be exercised at all levels, none being exempt from it. This implies sharing responsibility among the key constituencies of HE—administration, faculty, staff, and students. What forms of strategy and governance are best for promoting such shared responsibility? How can competition and cooperation be reconciled at academic, managerial or even institutional levels? Is the rush towards merger a principled, responsible decision or a fashionable fad? How can management style strike a balance between efficiency and humanity? How does responsible governance connect with notions of academic community and collaboration? How does the pressure to be globally competitive affect responsibility in leadership roles and job descriptions?
Responsible Management

Track Chairs:
Maarja Beerkens • Leiden University, the Netherlands and Göran Melin • Technopolis, Sweden

An interest in efficient and effective management of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe has been increasing rapidly. Changing governance structures, financial pressures, growing (international) competition, and increasing organisational complexity are some of the explanations. However, next to efficiency and effectiveness goals, the notion of responsible management is now gaining prominence. Incidences of risky financial investments, unreasonable expansion decisions, or lowering academic standards to reduce costs, have inspired the question of whether HEIs are forgetting their societal mission. HEIs are expected to be responsive to the needs of all their stakeholders including students, staff, society at large and future generations. Furthermore, social responsibility is becoming a matter of ‘standards’ to large organisations, either public or private. HEIs are major economic and social actors, they are often a major employer and an economic engine of their region, and social responsibility standards apply also to them. Whether it’s awareness about diversity issues or their environmental footstep, leadership and management of HEIs ought to reflect this role as well as high academic and societal ambitions.

This track welcomes papers that discuss management topics with a special focus on responsible management, broadly defined. The track is open to conceptual as well as empirical papers.

Papers on the following topics are particularly encouraged:

  • Managing organisational change
  • Leadership in higher education institutions
  • Diversity management
  • Corporate Social Responsibility’ and higher education institutions
  • Financial management, accountability and ethics
  • Professionalization of university management; development of management skills
  • Stakeholder management and accountability
  • Accountability mechanisms in HEI governance
  • Marketing and ethics
  • Management on different levels in HEIs
Quality Management for Responsible Higher Education

Track Chairs:
Joke Hageman • Avans University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands and Roeland Smits • Dutch Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

This track is about having trust in, being accountable for and taking responsibility for the quality of higher education.

There is great pressure from governments and society on public institutions to be permanently accountable and transparent. However even though institutions, including higher education institutions, are in general certainly prepared to give account, the constant pressure is often perceived as a major bureaucratic and administrative burden.

At the same time, there is an increasing need for professionals working within those same higher education institutions, to be able to focus more on future quality improvement rather than on accounting for the past. The bureaucracy entailed in the latter for example risks distracting practitioners and policy makers from the core tasks of education and research. All this takes place in a context in which universities of all types are expected to do more and perform better with the same (or, in some cases, decreasing) resources. At the same time in a parallel development, students are increasingly critical in their choice of study, and maybe increasingly guided by the performance of institutions in the field of education quality. Within this complex field of influences therefore, higher education must shape its quality management in a responsive and proactive way.

All this has led to a number of clearly visible trends in several (European) countries. Examples include: the shift from quality assurance from the level of education to the institutional level, a shift from control to earned trust and from accountability afterwards to development and improvement in advance. In addition, there are lively discussions about whether (educational) quality assurance and enhancement already leads to improvements by identifying future risks and preventing them, or whether more is needed.

In this way, ‘quality’ has also become an element with which universities and colleges can profile themselves. At the same time, cooperation is also important to guarantee a high quality of education, and top quality of research, or for facilities for students. Universities and colleges therefore work together in all kinds of fields – from defining, maintaining and measuring (educational) quality to peer review in education and research. They work together among themselves, with accreditation institutions, with inspectorates and with stakeholders with the aim of guaranteeing the highest possible quality of both education and research.

In the “Quality Management for Responsible Higher Education” track, therefore, the question is how responsible higher education institutions position themselves optimally within the ‘trilemma’ of taking responsibility, being accountable and asking for trust. From this perspective, we welcome contributions that address questions such as:

  • What experiences have been gained in Europe (or outside) with institutional accreditation? Is institutional accreditation a response to the contradiction between the need for professional space and the need for accountability?
  • Does society have sufficient confidence in the quality of higher education and the final qualifications of the students, when there is an evolution from external supervision to internal quality assessment? Is accreditation at institutional level necessary?
  • What experiences are there with an internal quality system at educational level to supplement institutional accreditation?
  • What experiences are there with cooperation in the field of quality assurance?
  • What methods are there to reduce or even prevent bureaucracy and administrative nuisance during accreditation?
  • How decisive for the design of educational programs are the views of accreditation institutions on educational quality?
  • What experiences are there with (positive and negative aspects of) a risk-based approach to quality assurance and enhancement.
  • Is earned trust a guarantee for the future?
Responsible Teaching & Learning

Track Chairs:
Don Westerheijden • CHEPS – Twente University, the Netherlands and Thomas Harboe • University of Copenhagen, Denmark

What do we teach and how do we teach it? How does that affect our students now and in their future lives in work, social relations and civic engagement? These and similar questions drive the track ‘Responsible teaching & learning’.

What Higher education is responsible for is seen differently across countries and by different stakeholders, yet the Council of Europe (2007) formulated a broad consensus on the aspects involved: personal development, sustainable employment and active citizenship. The EU Reference Framework (2018) specifies eight key competences that HEIs are expected to deliver to meet the qualifications framework: literacy, multilingual skills, STEM and digital competences, as well as personal, learning to learn and social competences, citizenship, entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression. All this may be seen as 21st century formulations of 19th century ideals of Bildung—though with significant differences. If not in content, then in context.

In this track, we are especially interested in the knowledge, skills, and competencies taught and/or learnt that go beyond the core of academic canons and that might be referred to as ‘responsible teaching and learning’: e.g. social competences, interdisciplinary learning, professional skills, and/or critical thinking.

Given this overall scope, we invite submissions in the form of theoretical papers, literature reviews, historical studies, empirical papers, case studies etc. exploring some of the following topics:

  • Innovative educational approaches to responsible teaching & learning: How do we support and develop new forms of responsible teaching and learning, e.g. within digitalization, feedback, portfolio and internationalization, in order to enhance quality?
  • Pedagogical development and quality enhancement: What are structural and organizational drivers for innovative responsible teaching & learning? Can we identify ‘best practices’ within pedagogical development and/or quality enhancement regarding responsible teaching & learning?
  • Data-informed approaches to responsible teaching & learning: Do we get ‘better’ graduates, making society and the economy ‘better’? How do we know what students actually learn from teaching for responsibility? How do we connect data to innovative teaching and learning development?
Responsibility of (Applied) Research

Regina Aichinger • University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Austria and Roeland van der Rijst • Leiden University, the Netherlands

Current changes in modern societies directly and indirectly influence research networks, processes and systems. Globalisation, due to fast communication technologies among others, have led to critical reflections on research dissemination and the nature of research. Both scholars as well as the labour market and society demand for open access publication of research, transparency of ethics in research, use of larger data sets, and innovative way to collaborate internationally. Research is not any more the sole province of scholars at universities – there is a vital claim for concrete advantages and contributions to solve complex problems. Research is called to take up their responsibilities in knowledge infrastructures and in the knowledge society at large.

Although (applied) research is one of the core activities of higher education institutions, it is the most under-researched side of the ‘knowledge triangle’. The changing nature of academic work, knowledge, and knowledge development within certain ´helix´-constellations are central to the changing role of higher education institutions in our society. Therefore, a deep understanding of the responsibility of research, researchers, and their institutions is vital to understanding higher education at large.

This track welcomes contributions that aim to develop sustained reflection, investigation and scholarly critique, and that critically identify new agendas for research. Under this broad thematic scope, this track searches for submissions (theoretical papers, literature reviews, empirical papers, case studies) that address the diversity of challenges faced by universities and other higher education institutions engaged in (applied) research, including (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • The role of universities in research networks and systems.
  • Responsibility of research to the labour market and to society or economy.
  • University-based research & applied research.
  • Responsibility and limits of applied research
  • Research leadership, policy, and management.
  • Dissemination & valorisation of research.
  • Quality and accountability of research.
  • Research productivity & output.
  • Research funding.
  • Equity and access to research.
  • Public opinions about research.
  • Research activities in teaching and learning.
  • Doctoral study, research supervision, and examination.
  • Criticisms on current research approaches
  • Responsibility of HEI’s in transdisciplinary research projects.
Institutional Research for Responsibility

Nynke Jo Smit • Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Mark Neijssel • Leiden University, the Netherlands

Higher education institutions have important responsibilities: performing research, teaching students  and transferring knowledge, technology and ideas to society at large. IR can help higher education institutes to more clearly define these responsibilities and also to check that they meet their objectives in this respect. Collecting and analysing data can provide useful information for policy decisions, on teaching and learning, but also on profiling and positioning the institutions themselves.

We welcome all contributions focusing on the what, how and why of IR for responsibility: theoretical contributions as well as empirical and practical contributions by Higher Education professionals and students. Although the usual contribution at EAIR is the single-slot paper, we are also looking forward to other proposals like roundtable or panel discussions, or workshops. Posters are also welcome because they are typically well suited to give overviews of facts and figures and the conclusions drawn from research.

Examples of issues that could be addressed in your contribution, are:


  • Which information on our responsibilities do we need for decision making in higher education institutions?
  • Which indicators and measuring systems do we need?


  • Why do we collect and store large amounts of data?
  • Why are we selecting some data ahead of other data?


  • How do we collect and analyse our data using new and innovative ways of measuring?
  • How do we translate data and analysis into practice?
  • How are the new European guidelines for privacy and data-management influencing the work of those involved in IR?
Responsibility of Higher Education for Society and Labour Market

Saskia Ulrich • CHE Centre for Higher Education, Germany and Marc Vermeulen • Tilburg University, the Netherlands

Universities represent a vital part of any society. More recently, universities are moving toward matters such as valorisation, macro-efficiency, and corporatization, which calls for them to be a ‘good corporate citizen’. The best approach for universities to achieve that is by adapting the concept of social responsibility. This social responsibility is guided by:

  • the pursuit of excellence in teaching, training, research and institutional performance;
  • the relevance of services offered by higher education institutions to the perceived priority needs of their respective societies;
  • the quest for balance between short-term pertinence and service and long-range quality, between basic and applied research and between professional training and general education.

Over the last decades, research transfer, contract research, serving societal demands and employability, as well as the adequate qualification and professional development of young academics have increasingly turned into functions of Higher Education Institutions. HEIs provide institutional objectives and institution-wide consensus on subject-related, personal or professional competencies that respond to societal demands. HEIs create transparency. Due to changes in governance paradigms (new public management) HEIs have also moved from supply to demand driven organizational forms. This also includes more competitiveness amongst institutes whilst increasing responsiveness has also undermined cooperation and coordination at a system level.

This track elaborates on the issue of how HEI’s respond to societal demands, how they perform their strategies to sensitize governmental and state influences on the social function of Higher Education and about its impact on labour markets at the national, regional and international levels. We encourage policymakers, administrators and researchers to come up with experiences, examples, or research results and look forward to receive proposals which address questions like:

  • How can curricula accommodate and capitalize labour market requirements?
  • What are the effects of the mass expansion of higher education on society and labour market?
  • What is the universities’ responsibility for societal sustainability?

Or which deal with topics like:

  • State-of-the-art studies on academic freedom and its ensuing responsibilities within the framework of the social function of higher education;
  • Connectivity and responsibility of learning outcomes;
  • Creating more transparency on curricula and degree holders’ profiles;
  • Academic freedom versus social responsibility;
  • Scientific integrity and codes of ethics/behaviour;
  • The tensions between competition and collaboration
  • HE-networks and the pathways between them
Responsibility for Internationalisation

Marieke te Booij • Leiden University, the Netherlands and Renata Suter • Kiron Open Higher Education, Germany

Internationalisation of Higher Education is a relatively new and broad concept. Over the last 30 years European programmes for research and education, in particular the ERASMUS programme, the Marie Curie Fellowships, but also the Bologna process, have fostered a broader and more strategic approach to internationalisation across the EU and have been an example for parallel strategies in other parts of the world. Common goals and objectives of internationalisation strategies have been and are still the competition for talented students and scholars; mobility; an increased importance of international reputation, visibility and competitiveness; as well as economic gains.

In this track, we will consider what responsibilities higher education institutions have in pursuing internationalisation strategies that focus on the responsibility to address global issues in an increasingly connected world. Our themes will include; whether higher education institutions should train staff and students with regard to international working spaces and international co-working? Whether they should be better prepared for a changing world (e.g. Brexit, refugee crises, academic freedom issues) and if and how higher education institutions can foster intentional strategies that make meaningful contributions to society?

This track welcomes submissions (theoretical papers, literature reviews, empirical papers, case studies) addressing issues such as:

  • How do institutions define ‘responsibility for internationalisation’, and how does it fit into the institution’s overall strategy?
  • How do institutions use digitalisation to increase internationalisation?
  • What are the aims or ambitions for ‘responsible internationalisation’ within institutions? Are they linked to a global responsibility strategy (e.g. climate change, diversity/inclusion)?
  • How do institutions bring (responsible) internationalisation into practice and what are the challenges?
  • How do institutions organise their internationalisation activities? To mainstream or not to mainstream?
  • How can institutions ensure that their internationalisation strategy is more inclusive?
Responsibility for Continuing Professional Development

Maria José Sá • CIPES, Portugal and Maarten van de Ven • Leiden University, the Netherlands

Continuing professional development (CPD) is a requirement for all professionals in the current fast changing world and a key attitude in keeping them staying interested and interesting. CPD refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience gained in formal and  informal study and work processes as well as featuring systematic, on-going and self-directed learning. These processes vary from structured continuing education programs to non-structured, self-directed methods of development. In the specific arena of Higher Education, CPD encompasses all those activities  that help faculty members to improve their capacity to become more effective teachers and to carry out other parts of their multifaceted roles, such as conducting research, contributing to administrative activities and writing publishable materials. The quality of non-academic staff is an equally important factor in the quality of Higher Education. This Track is concerned too therefore programs in HEIs that pay attention to the CPD of professional and technical services teams. The experiences and the effects of these programs are also potentially highly influential in improving the student experience.

This track aims to focus on the responsibility for continuing professional development of all higher education actors, including non-academic staff and academic staff but also, students. HEIs should raise their students’ awareness of the centrality of CPD, although this aspect is sometimes overlooked by  academic leaders in higher education institutions (HEIs). It is important for students to get the chance to acquire a development-oriented attitude towards their own professional development. This attitude starts during their studies, with questions such as: what is the student’s (societal) responsibility for his/her academic success? To what extent is student satisfaction an indicator for student co-determination to discuss the quality of education from the sense of responsibility? Where and how does that happen? How can students participate in the co-creation of professional development programs?

To fulfil these ambitions, we invite policymakers, researchers and students to submit contributions (such as research papers, reviews, theoretical papers, essays, opinions or reasoned comments) from several approaches, such as sociological, psychological, managerial and/or human resources management.

This track accepts proposals related to items such as:

  • Is there a link between student satisfaction and success and CPD?
  • What is the role of the students’ experience in higher education in their subsequent attitudes towards CPD as professionals?
  • What kind of policies are practice for academic and non-academic staff development?
  • Are HEIs academic and non-academic staff internalising the needs for CPD?
  • What are the responsibilities of HEIs in the career expectations of and options for doctoral candidates?
  • What is the role of continuing professional development and responsibility in tenured employment?
  • How can we bear responsibility between home grown talent versus internationally recruited faculty?
  • What can we learn from examples of (inter)national programs focused on innovative educational leadership programs?
  • What are the effects of teacher programs (like basis qualification and/or senior qualification)?
  • How can we shape an attitude for lifelong learning for students and HEI employees?
  • What kind of formal and informal programs for CPD are carried out in HEIs?
Responsibility for an Innovative Future

Marcus Specht • Technical University Delft, the Netherlands and Karl Ledermüller • Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

HEIs provide education, original research outputs and interact as an institution with society. Thus, HEIs for centuries have played a crucial role in setting up environments where innovations can prosper. However, this influential position comes with great responsibility. Schumpeter’s idea of creative destruction describes how innovation necessitates continuous reconfiguration. The debate as to whether HEIs should take up greater responsibility concerning their impact on people, ideas and technology is still ongoing. Therefore, this Forum Track addresses the following aspects relating to ‘Responsibility for an innovative future’ in the institutional context:

HEIs as providers of education have an impact on students.

  • What does it mean to help students to become responsible and critical people with integrity?
  • Why should HEIs also focus on responsibility/integrity of their students/graduates?
  • How can students be taught to become responsible members of society in order to succeed in the future?
  • How can HEIs create resilient systems of innovations in which students play an important role?

HEIs as providers of research have an impact on theories, methods, technology and the way knowledge is being generated.

  • What does it imply that HEIs are responsible and innovative?
  • Is there a need for a debate of responsibility and vs. innovation?
  • How can responsibility and innovation dimensions be addressed in research (e.g. in research ethics, usage of technologies…)?

HEIs as a provider of applied research outcome have an impact on industrial developments (Third Mission)

  • What role do HEIs play in causing prosperity in a particular economic area?
  • Why should HEIs focus on the responsibility and innovation dimension when transforming industries and technologies?
  • How can universities take responsibility for industrial and technological developments?
  • How can HEIs keep their unique quality by balancing industrial needs and societal impact and scientific quality?

HEIs have an impact on political systems (e.g. through their alumni, professors, university-city cooperations…)

  • What role do HEIs have when it comes to the question of responsibility and future developments?
  • Why should HEIs contribute to creating a responsible and innovative future?
  • How can universities help to transform political systems into more responsible and innovative system?

HEIs as providers of career opportunities have an impact on creating societies characterized by equal opportunities (social [in]equality)

  • What is the role of HEIs with regard to the social dimension?
  • Why should HEIs focus on that dimension?
  • How can universities strengthen their impact on social equality?

HEIs as organizations (Infrastructure, Organizational Development)

  • What HEI strategies focus on aspects of responsibility and/or innovation?
  • Why should HEIs as organizations focus on responsibility and innovation for future generations?
  • How can an HEI Infrastructure be responsible and innovative at once?
  • How can staff and faculty take part in the creation of responsible future innovations?