Reader’s guide

The reader’s guide provides information on the HEInnovate conceptual framework and online tool. It presents the methodology used in the Netherlands’ county review and concludes with a brief overview of the chapters in this report.


The HEInnovate framework

Conceptual framework

Higher education is changing across European Union and OECD countries and there is a growing expectation from policy makers and society that higher education institutions (HEIs) should evolve into a new type of economic actor. Entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education are no longer only associated with business startups and technology transfer but are increasingly understood as core elements of a procedural framework for how organisations and individuals behave. For example, in how links between teaching and research are created and nurtured, how societal engagement and knowledge exchange are organised, how resources are built and managed for effective partnerships, and how new entrepreneurs are supported.

Transforming (traditional) HEIs into entrepreneurial and innovative organisations is neither an easy nor a straightforward endeavour. It requires commitment of resources into areas of change and high impact which, in turn, needs to build on a strategic collaboration between policy makers, HEI leaders, staff, students, and partners in the local economy. The aim of HEInnovate is to stimulate and contribute to this strategic collaboration with a guiding framework that describes the innovative and entrepreneurial higher education institution through a set of good practice criteria that has been distilled from an ongoing analysis of current HEI practices across European Union and OECD countries.

HEInnovate was developed collaboratively by the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) of the European Commission and the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Also contributing was a network of innovation and entrepreneurship professors and experts from across European Union countries. The stimulus for HEInnovate was the University-Business Forum in March 2011, an annual event organised by the European Commission for HEIs and their key strategic partners. Delegates expressed a need for support and guidance in implementing practices to help them become more innovative and entrepreneurial institutions.

A working definition was agreed which describes the innovative and entrepreneurial HEI as “designed to empower students and staff to demonstrate enterprise, innovation and creativity in teaching, research, and engagement with business and society. Its activities are directed to enhance learning, knowledge production and exchange in a highly complex and changing societal environment; and are dedicated to create public value via processes of open engagement”. How this can be translated into daily practice in HEIs is described through 37 statements, which are organised within the following seven dimensions (please refer to the Annex for the full HEInnovate framework and good practice statements):

  1. Leadership and Governance

  2. Organisational Capacity: Funding, People and Incentives

  3. Entrepreneurial Teaching and Learning

  4. Preparing and Supporting Entrepreneurs

  5. Knowledge Exchange and Collaboration

  6. The Internationalised Institution

  7. Measuring the Impact

HEInnovate online tool

A freely available online self-assessment tool ( covering the seven dimensions of the “entrepreneurial university” was developed for HEIs to organise a participatory stock-taking exercise to review achievements and identify areas for improvement. It is possible to involve a wide range of stakeholders (leadership, staff, academic and administrative staff, key partner organisations etc.), and to repeat the exercise over time. Users can choose to remain anonymous and data is accessible only to users. The seven dimensions are available in all EU Member State languages.

Explanations of the statements, a growing number of case studies, multimedia material and workshop facilitation tools make the online tool inspirational and very user-friendly. Users can work with all dimensions or choose dimensions that are most relevant for their purpose. For example, users could choose to focus on “Organisational Capacity” and “Knowledge Exchange” if the purpose is to (re)organise collaboration with external stakeholders.

An instant reporting function generates a snapshot of the status quo and potential areas of change in the chosen dimensions, comparing the rating of the user/user group to the global/HEI mean. The report points users to guidance material and case study examples with information on concrete actions that HEIs can undertake to enhance their performance in the respective dimension(s). Results are saved and can be compared over time; they are accessible only to the respective user.

There are various examples of how HEIs have been using the HEInnovate online tool. Several HEIs have been using it to organise a creative consultation process around their institutional strategy (e.g. Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK), to design new cross-faculty education programmes (e.g. University of Aveiro in Portugal), for the re‐organisation of entrepreneurship support infrastructure (e.g. Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland), or for the organisation of knowledge exchange activities (e.g. University of Ruse in Bulgaria).

HEInnovate country review methodology

The seven dimensions and good practice statements are also used for HEInnovate policy and system reviews at country level or regional level. The aim of these reviews is to provide a roadmap for strengthening the innovative and entrepreneurial higher education institution. Following an approach that involves a wide range of stakeholders from within the reviewed country (policy makers, HEI leaders, academic and administrative staff members, researchers etc.) and experts and peers from other countries, key areas of strength and areas for improvement are identified and analysed. Recommendations are presented for policy measures that can be implemented by national and sub-national governments, as well as for actions that HEIs can take to act upon opportunities and overcome barriers. The reviews also help to identify and examine examples of good practice from other countries that could provide relevant inspiration.

Recent HEInnovate country reviews have been undertaken in Bulgaria, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands and further reviews will be undertaken with interested governments.

Method applied in the country-level review of the Netherlands

The HEInnovate country review of the Netherlands was a collaborative effort between the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism, the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Enterprise Agency (RVO), the Association of Research Universities (VSNU), and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) of the Netherlands. The methodology used in the Dutch review was the same as in other HEInnovate reviews and includes the steps described below.

1. Selection of case study HEIs

The selection of HEIs to be covered in the study visits was undertaken collaboratively by the review partners. Several factors were considered during the selection of HEIs, including type of institution and academic focus (e.g. general university, university of applied sciences, etc.), size (e.g. number of students) and location (e.g. rural, urban). Applications were sought from HEIs to participate in the review and subsequently the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the OECD jointly selected nine higher education institutions for an in-depth study. These were Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Arnhem and Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Maastricht University, Twente University, Utrecht University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

2. Background report and kick-off workshop

The OECD prepared a background report containing information on the Dutch higher education system, and the visited HEIs prepared institutional profiles. A background chapter on the Dutch higher education system was commissioned during the review process and is included in this report (Chapter 1).

A kick-off workshop for the project was held in Den Haag in March 2016. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science invited representatives of the HEIs selected for the study visits to participate in the workshop. The purpose was to familiarise the participants with the HEInnovate tool, the review method, and to identify the HEInnovate dimensions to be examined in more depth as focus areas of the review. Four dimensions were selected: Organisational Capacity, Entrepreneurial Teaching and Learning, Knowledge Exchange, and Preparing and Supporting Entrepreneurs. A representative of the OECD Secretariat presented the HEInnovate country-level review methodology and outlined the expectations for participating HEIs. The European Commission presented the HEInnovate tool and explained how the HEIs could use and benefit from it.

3. Study visits

In June and July 2016, two international review teams, led by the OECD, completed two country visits to the Netherlands with one-day study visits to each of the above mentioned nine case study HEIs to meet with presidents/rectors and/or vice-presidents/vice-rectors, deans, professors, career offices, technology transfer offices, business incubators, student associations, student and staff startup companies, students taking entrepreneurship courses, and alumni. In addition to meeting with local and regional representatives, several meetings were held with national stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, RVO, VSNU, VH, NVO and business and employer representative organisations.

4. HEI Leader Survey

An online survey of HEI leaders was used to complement the information obtained in the background report and the study visits. The questionnaire is based on the HEInnovate framework and contains seven sections. It asks about current and planned practices in i) the strategic directions of the HEI, ii) management of human and financial resources, iii) the teaching and learning environment, iv) knowledge exchange activities, v) internationalisation, vi) entrepreneurship education, and vii) business startup support. In collaboration with the VSNU and the VH, the representative organisations of Dutch HEIs, invitations to the online survey were sent to the executive boards of all publicly funded HEIs, including 14 research universities and the University for Humanities (excluded were the university of the reformed church, the Catholic Apeldoorn University and the Protestant Universities, specialist universities providing teacher training), and 37 universities of applied sciences (UAS). The total number of responses was 25, of which 9 were from research universities and 16 from UAS. The overall survey response rate was 48%. The survey response rates per HEI type are the following: research universities (60%), UAS (43%).

5. Report and workshop

This report was prepared with inputs from the members of the two international review panels, drawing on information gathered during the study visits and from the online survey. An interim report summarising key findings and preliminary recommendations was presented in December 2016 at a meeting with representatives of the nine visited HEIs, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, RVO, VSNU, and VH. Written feedback on observations from the study visits and suggested actions were sent to the case study HEIs.

A draft report was presented and discussed in an interactive workshop organised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and hosted by Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences in July 2017. Following the workshop, the OECD Secretariat finalised the report, taking into account written feedback and contributions that had been made.

The content of this report

Chapter 1 presents the Dutch higher education system. It describes the role of key actors and discusses the funding arrangements for education and research. The chapter provides an overview of the quality assurance mechanisms and human resource policies in higher education. It also presents the framework conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education and some recent policies for strengthening the innovative potential of the Netherlands, which will be further discussed in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 2 presents key review findings and recommendations. The analysis is aligned to the HEInnovate framework with its seven dimensions and 37 statements. It covers a holistic approach to supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, including strategy, governance and resources, practices in organising education, research and engagement with business and society, and measuring impact.

Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 expand on the key findings and recommendations presented in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 discusses the challenges faced with regard to the need to sustain valorisation and entrepreneurship through public funding, and a framework that shows how valorisation feeds into education and research. It explores how regional networks can be strengthened and how to engage staff in contributing to this, and valorisation in general. The chapter also reviews current practices undertaken by higher education institutions to enhance and sustain their organisational capacity, primarily with regard to research and knowledge exchange, and presents various learning models and good practice examples.

Chapter 4 focuses on teaching and learning in Dutch HEIs. It discusses approaches undertaken by HEIs to increase interdisciplinarity of educational tracks, develop an entrepreneurial mindset among students and staff, and the growing demand from students for social entrepreneurship education. The chapter explores how to assess the effects of entrepreneurship education on the development of entrepreneurial attitudes. Three tools are presented that have been tested and validated in international studies.

Chapter 5 explores good practices and challenges related to knowledge exchange and collaboration. Given future economic and societal trends, engagement and valorisation activities will depend increasingly on multidisciplinary programmes and related support infrastructure. The chapter argues for a greater involvement of staff and students in the valorisation agenda and increased emphasis on measuring the valorisation phenomenon and impacts in order to embed valorisation further within the higher education system.

Chapter 6 reviews the startup support in Dutch higher education institutions (HEIs). The key question is how can HEIs scale, develop, refine, continue and build on the existing support infrastructure and networks? HEIs have established a strong startup support infrastructure for students and staff through training, access to facilities, mentors and networks. However, supporting entrepreneurial behaviour within the institutional borders of an HEI can be challenging because it might not be compliant with existing reward structures, rules and regulations. In its final section, the chapter analyses the role of HEIs in developing and leading entrepreneurial ecosystems and how this can be strengthened.

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