When you ask people of a certain age why they went to the university they went to, they will probably say: “Because it was closest to my home”. No longer so. Children today start searching the Internet for the ‘best’ university about as soon as they can read. Mobility of academics has been very modest in the 19th and first half of the 20th century; it was often confined to moves within the country. Not any more. Just about every top university nowadays has an international mix of researchers and lecturers, eager to move on to better places. Universities have always competed for money from their governments. They still do, but substantial research funds now come from industry contracts and there is hefty competition for their acquisition. To sum it up, within one generation universities have become globally competing actors in the markets for the best students, academics and research contracts.

Where there is competition, there are winners and losers. Who will be the winners and who the losers? That is the question the book Towards the Third Generation University seeks an answer to. In short: winners will be those universities that manage to become the hub of a number of activities that compete and collaborate: traditional academic research and teaching, research establishments of enterprises and government, institutes of higher professional learning, and all that comes with selling know-how to the market: start-up enterprises with a host of service providers in their slipstream, including venture capital providers. In the book we have described the University of Cambridge in the UK as a case: on the one hand, deep science with the largest number of Nobel Prizes, on the other, ever expanding circles of techoparks and incubators. The technopark of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara employs more scientists than the university itself. To mirror this, we described how Shell organises its research and how it farms out large chunks of fundamental research. Patent wars between universities and companies are the order of the day.

The winning universities of today are quite different from the universities a generation ago; one might say there has been a paradigm shift. Studying the history of universities revealed that we have seen this before and hence we talk of First, Second and Third Generation Universities. The 1GUs or medieval universities did not engage in what we now call research. They were solely devoted to teaching, aiming at creating good theologians, lawyers and physicians while teaching the ‘liberal arts’ on the side. They would pass on – and re-interpretate – the teachings of the ancients in scholastical discussions. In the Renaissance we saw – step-by-step - the emergence of the modern scientific method. The interesting thing is that this happened outside the universities and heavily opposed by them: Galileo, da Vinci and so many others. It was only after the Napoleonic time that research was seen as the second objective of universities and the 2GU or Humboldt University evolved. It is interesting to see that these universities were not interested in the application of their research findings; they left this to outsider-inventors: James Watt, Daniel Bell, Thomas Edison and so many others. It was only after WWII that universities or their staff and students started to bring knowledge to the market, either by selling it to existing enterprises or by creating new firms. Commercialisation of know-how became the third objective of top universities.

The book goes into much detail of what a 3GU looks like. The Contents can be downloaded from our Download section and the book can be bought in bookshops or from the website of the publisher, Edward Elgar (see in the Order section). The Turkish translation can be bought from the Librarian of Ozyegin University in Istanbul; a second edition was launched in April 2014. The Polish edition is available from the Wrocławskie Centrum Transferu Technologii  of TU Wroslaw. The Macedonian translation can be bought from the office of the Provost of University American College Skopje. For more information of our activities in this field, click here.