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Third-Mission

What is University’s Third-Mission? It refers to an additional function of the universities in the context of knowledge society. The university is not only responsible for qualifying the human capital (Education – the first mission) and for producing new knowledge (Research – the second mission).
Universities must engage with societal needs and market demands by linking the university’s activity with its own socio-economic context. Today universities develop their strategies around these three missions.

The Third-Mission can be divided into two main areas: the economic enhancement of knowledge and cultural and social activity.

1. Economic enhancement of knowledge - fostering economic growth, through the transformation of knowledge produced by research into knowledge useful for production purposes:

  • the management of intellectual property (patents)
  • business creation (spin-off)
  • third-party research, in particular  deriving from research-industry relations
  • the management of intermediation and support structures, generally    on a territorial scale (placement and technology transfer activities).

2. Cultural and social activity - producing public goods that increase the well-being of society:

  • cultural content (events and cultural heritage, management of museum poles, archaeological excavations, scientific dissemination, musical activities)
  • social content (public health, activities for the benefit of the community, technical / professional consultations provided in teams)
  • educational content (adult education, life long learning, continuous  training)
  • civil content (debates and public disputes, scientific expertise)


TIMELINE OF EMERGING UNIVERSITIES’ FOUR-MISSION MODEL

Mission
First Second Third Fourth
Mission focus Education Research Economic

Sustainability

Triggering event

Expansion of

Catholic Church
Humboldtian reform Knowledge economy

Sustainability crisis

Timeline 1150-1170 1810 1980 2010-on

Source:  Arthur Rubens, Francesca Spigarelli, Alessio Cavicchi, Chiara Rinaldi, (2017) "Universities’ third mission and the entrepreneurial university and the challenges they bring to higher education institutions", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11

 

 

HEIs challenges to the third mission

FocusExample activitiesChallenges/Barriers

Economic development

 

 

Community: non commercial

Technology Transfer

Spin-Offs

Consulting

Internships

Service learning

Community-based training

Faculty attitudes toward third mission

Skepticism toward academic commercialization

Attitudes toward value of arts/humanities degree

Overriding focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses and degrees

Faculty assessment process and lack of focus on external service activities

Decreased funding to universities to support primary mission

Rising role (financially and organizationally) of administrators

Limited support and resources to third mission activities

Mission drift and ethical and conflict of interest issues

Conflicts and expectations by the community

Not meeting perceived or real expectations of community

Source:  Arthur Rubens, Francesca Spigarelli, Alessio Cavicchi, Chiara Rinaldi, (2017) "Universities’ third mission and the entrepreneurial university and the challenges they bring to higher education institutions", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11

 

 

Recommendations to improve the implementation of the university third mission

THIRD MISSION

RECOMMENDATIONS
  • Focus on primary mission and avoid mission overload: don’t overburden faculty, staff, with external duties and responsibilities.
  • Provide administrative support and resources to support third mission activities
  • Diversify sources of revenue to support third mission – public, private, profit, non-profit, etc.
  • Promote, recognize, and reward third mission activities
  • Educate faculty and staff on the direct and indirect benefits of third mission activities
  • Promote entrepreneurism across the university environment including different colleges, academic and non-academic units
  • Reassess and restructure the assessment process for faculty and staff and ensure that faculty and staff will be recognized and rewarded for their efforts
  • Identify key individuals who are best suited for third stream activities
  • Managing expectations and perceptions
  • Implement internal controls and processes that involve both internal and external reviewers to ensure ethical behaviour

Source:  Arthur Rubens, Francesca Spigarelli, Alessio Cavicchi, Chiara Rinaldi, (2017) "Universities’ third mission and the entrepreneurial university and the challenges they bring to higher education institutions", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11