What influences universities' regional engagement? A multi-stakeholder perspective applying a Q-methodological approach

Reg Stud Reg Sci. 2019 May 8;6(1):170-185. doi: 10.1080/21681376.2019.1578258. eCollection 2019.


This paper argues that rather than being a process that can be objectively planned or predicted, regional engagement on the part of universities is a learning activity featuring characteristics of a subjective deliberation process. This subjective deliberation process is simultaneously influenced by factors operating at the intra-organizational and regional level, as well as the field in which the university is located. A model that takes this multilevel environment into account is applied to a single case study region: Kaiserslautern (Germany). A Q-methodological approach is employed to reveal and analyze the aforementioned subjective perspectives regarding drivers of universities' regional engagement. Two key viewpoints emerge from this analysis: one perspective reflects a highly institutionalized reading of regional engagement, and can be traced to the strong policy push to create universities as drivers of regional development in the Palatinate. The second perspective recognizes greater diversity among the various engagement activities pursued by universities beyond this narrow institutional engagement, driven through individual interaction with regional partners. These insights question the widespread pipeline-dominated perspective on universities' regional engagement and argue for a more systemic understanding of the role of higher education institutions within their region.

Keywords: Q-methodology; organizational-field factors; organizational-internal factors; university engagement; viewpoints.

Grant support

This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund [project number: T761-G27].