Memorial takes role in OECD study
By Leslie Vryenhoek
Memorial is playing a big role in an international study undertaken by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which will examine the role of higher education institutions in fostering regional development.
Dr. Wade Locke, Department of Economics, will serve as the regional co-ordinator and principal researcher for Atlantic Canada the only participating Canadian jurisdiction. About 14 other countries are also taking part.
According to Dr. Locke, the primary goal of the OECD-sponsored project is to increase the extent to which higher education institutions utilize their intellectual capital to contribute to the economic, social and cultural development within their regions.
The Atlantic portion of the study, undertaken in conjunction with the Associations of Atlantic Universities and the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium, will begin with a self-evaluation by participating institutions of higher education. Then an external group from Canada and abroad will come to conduct an independent review. A report on the findings from all participating countries will be released in Paris, France in 2007.
“This allows each institution an opportunity to compare themselves with others, and to share information and learn from others on a global scale,” Dr. Locke said. Most importantly, however, he wants the project to help raise support for higher education’s “third task or function” beyond research and teaching that of social obligation.
“I believe that universities have a significant public role to play, and that it’s even more important when you exist on a periphery, because the private sector doesn’t always have enough capacity,” Dr. Locke explained. “Although universities and colleges possess the intellectual and research capital, there has not been the level of collaboration and co-operation that I believe needs to exist between universities and private sector.” Stronger relationships, he noted, will not only serve the community but the institutions by providing them with improved opportunities for funding and other partnerships.
Dr. Locke plans to involve students in the project, offering them a chance to work on a major, “real world” project.
MUN professor Stephen Tomblin (Department of Political Sciences) will also participate as a provincial co-ordinator for Newfoundland and Labrador, and will be joined by a co-ordinator from each Atlantic province.
Funding and steering partners on the project include ACOA and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. Dr. Locke has also applied for funding from Memorial’s Leslie Harris Centre.