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Definition, Principles, and Taxonomy Established for Higher Education Economic Development Strategy and Practice

September 2, 2015

Framework will help institutions of higher education connect with and grow their regions of influence.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – The University Economic Development Association (UEDA) and the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU) today released a joint publication that defines the roles of higher education institutions in modern economic development and outlines ways in which colleges and universities can better develop and carry out programming. 

“APLU and its Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity are interested in helping public research universities make valuable contributions to the economy, and this latest publication reflects our commitment in this area,” said Peter McPherson, APLU president. “Senior leadership and professionals working in economic development efforts at our member institutions will benefit from further definition of this important focus area.”

“UEDA’s advocacy in higher education economic development at all educational levels has spanned four decades,” said Mike Dozier, president of UEDA. “As we advance into new economies, this document will serve as a foundation for institutions and their regions to develop vibrant and sustainable communities.”

The new publication, entitled Higher Education Engagement in Economic Development: Foundations for Strategy and Practice, provides a much-needed definition of economic development and engagement; details a common set of principles for the practice of economic development; and presents a taxonomy of programs to demonstrate the many connections between what institutions already do and the impact of these functions on economies and society.

The publication seeks to better communicate how economic engagement goes well beyond research, technology transfer, and place-strategies such as incubators and to inspire future roadmaps, tools, and metrics for assessing progress across a wider array of activities. The publication defines economic development in higher education as:

Proactive institutional engagement, with partners and stakeholders, in sustainable growth of the competitive capacities that contribute to the advancement of society through the realization of individual, firm, community, and regional-to-global economic and social potential.

The document describes institutions of higher learning sharing a responsibility for economic development through enhancing the competitiveness of their communities. This is accomplished through three core missions: Talent Development; Research & Innovation; and Stewardship of Place.

“When an institution has active and effective programs in all three realms and in their intersections—the institution is achieving what we may call high-impact economic engagement,” describes the publication.

As a tool for institutions of higher education, the publication also identifies principles of practice for programs and business operations, while also describing a taxonomy of programs to provide an organized way of thinking about how many functions of colleges and universities relate to economic development and engagement.

“Public research universities have always had an emphasis on economic development in their states and regions, and even globally. But these kinds of outcomes do not just happen—getting there takes thoughtful leadership and action on the part of higher education institutions. At NC State, we call that ‘think and do,’” said chairman of APLU’s Commission on Innovation and chancellor of NC State, Randy Woodson. “APLU’s CICEP is proud to have partnered with UEDA to help universities ‘think and do’ economic engagement.”

Since 2013, UEDA and APLU and their boards, staff, and members considered existing and missing knowledge surrounding the topic of higher education economic engagement.  Using each of the two organizations’ existing publications, programming, and experience as a starting point, they undertook the effort that ultimately led to this new publication.

More information about the Foundations for Strategy and Practice, including the publication, can be found at UEDA and APLU's websites.

About UEDA

Established in 1976, the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) is the cornerstone membership organization representing higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders. UEDA works to expand economic opportunity in our communities by leveraging research, community resources, campus planning, talent development, and technology commercialization.  UEDA’s mission is to serve its members by advancing knowledge and practice in economic engagement by institutions of higher education.  http://www.universityeda.org

About APLU

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.With a membership of 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. 

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