Steve Kyffin

Universities as agents of change

Professor Steven Kyffin, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Business and Enterprise at Northumbria University recently joined Health Collab as an Adjunct Professor. He is a supporter of what he calls Fourth Generation Universities and sees Health Collab is a perfect example of this model.

“This is not a new idea, I first heard about the Fourth Generation University concept in an article, New Functions of Universities in the XXI. Century: "Fourth Generation” Universities? written by Miklos Lukovics and Bence Zuti from the University of Szeged and the work of Polish academic, Krzysztof Pawlowski,”says Kyffin.

“Fourth Generation Universities have a culture that is purposeful in a particular way. When I moved from the Netherlands to the UK I tried to find out what the purpose of universities was. At the time, PA Consulting had an education group, which defined three types of university in the UK. PA identifiedthat there were teaching universities or formation universities, which equipped people with skills and knowledge to build a career. Discovery unis, which try and understand God’s world and how things are, and then the ‘ideas’ universities,” he explains.

“Ideas universities are focused on driving and creating the future opportunities because they are trying to build economic growth and social prosperity though new and creative ideas. They also work as an anchor institution in a local community to build an enriched sense of place. They do it by creating the future together by bringing agendas together; government, industry, university research and education and the general population’s civic agenda, to create a new place,” says Kyffin

“If you are going to be an ideas uni you can’t be the others at the same level. You cannot be a teaching, researching and ideas uni in equal measure. Because of the way they are run with the differing cultures around accountability and accountancy they can’t easily co-exist. One has to choose. Sadly, in the current university sector very few actually believe this and continue to focus on all aspects, as every uni has always done all three. Interestingly, my conversations with senior management at Monash seem to suggest that this university sees itself as an ideas and innovation university. The Lukovics and Zuti paperdemonstrates that this is not so.

Kyffin is talking about something completely different. He talks about how you become the agents of change in a completely networked open, emergent, entrepreneurial and innovative way.

“This is where a university moves from and across discipline to discipline, subject to subject, issue to issue, in its search to create the new knowledge, new methods and above all new ideas which speak to the future global challenges which we face. Universities are a perfect place to bring a full spectrum of disciplines from artists, designers, musicians, natural and social scientists, lawyers, business modellers, historians, the wider humanities and so on to try and understand what the future might hold for us, and where we prefer to go in all of that,” Kyffin says.

He explains that we are not training people down the physics line, for example, anymore. He believes we have to provide some core knowledge but this is more an issue of building a competence based learning model; combining new skills, knowledge and behaviour in order to work in larger teams to co-create preferable futures for ourselves. It’s much more student determined. He says, it’s what the Hindu community in India is now called - the house of the student rather than the house of the guru.

“As Dr MS Ananth, President IIT Madras spoke in 2007 in his Heads & Hearts in Education talk at the HOIT conference, we are moving away from the ‘gurriculum’ to the curriculum according to the needs of the future. The learners are the students and the university is enabling them as creative curious entrepreneurial leaders. Those multi-actors involved in the innovation, involved in the value creation for the future - rather than focusing on understanding the world as it is. It’s an open innovation hub for a region, or the world, and we are also trying to set them up in consortia now. It’s becoming an ecosystem of people around global issues, rather than training skills around what everybody else is taught in any singular discipline. This is a much more disruptive model and purpose for education and research,” Kyffin explains.

“Health Collab intuitively do this by the way they work. Ultimately because I’ve been invited as an Adjunct Professor at Health Collab, I’m trying to build a structural relationship, between our universities, where I can realise some of this with the team here. That’s why I want to promote the Fourth Generation University model. And I’m hoping we can work and collaborate with corporations like Boeing, Philips and so on, if that’s an option,” says Kyffin.