Towards more effective collaboration by higher education institutions for greater regional development in the Gauteng City-Region

Higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) and elsewhere are increasingly being called upon to do more than their traditional roles of teaching and research. They are now expected to collaborate and engage with other stakeholders with a view to contributing directly and indirectly to social and economic development in their localities.

Such an orientation includes having HEIs actively fostering public-private partnerships and other initiatives that enhance equitable regional development. The adoption of such a focus has implications for all aspects of these institutions’ activities, as well as for the policy and regulatory framework in which they operate. This Occasional Paper reflects critically on the role of HEIs in regional development. It surveys current debates on the matter and draws out some of the implications on how we ought to think further about the current state of government-industryacademia interaction and collaboration for development in the GCR. It is motivated by an awareness of the increasing importance of higher education in the regional development discourse, alongside a body of international theory and practice on the contribution of HEIs to regional development. A cornerstone of this body of literature is the so-called ‘triple helix’ framework within which government, industry and academia work intimately, intensely and collaboratively towards a common vision of regional development. Within this framework, HEIs are considered to be a public good that must play a large, meaningful and relevant role in the development and improvement of the cities and regions where they are located.1, 2 They do not, and cannot, stand completely outside the realities of their geographic, social, cultural and political environment.

The intended audience for this report extends beyond academics and HEI administrators to include government officials, business and labour leaders, civil society and citizens, because a discussion on stimulating and improving the GCR must be much more than an academic exercise. The collaboration that is essential to regional development requires stakeholders to be familiar with a wide spectrum of issues of importance to individual constituencies. Each constituency must add value and insight to the discussion by drawing on their specific knowledge, experience and self-interests. Establishing this common ground is fundamental to initiating meaningful debate about what the GCR can and should be, and how regional HEIs can work more collaboratively, creatively and effectively to improve and advance the region.


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