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REF NO.: 86

SUBJECT: Memorial University discussion focuses on post-secondary education and development

DATE: Jan. 9

Memorial University is hosting a free public meeting next week to examine the role post-secondary institutions play in regional development.
The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, which is based on the St. John’s campus, is holding a public talk entitled From Ivory Tower to Regional Power:the role of universities and colleges in development on Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m., in room IIC-2001 in the Inco Innovation Centre.
A recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) demonstrated the valuable contributions which higher-education institutions make to their societies. Atlantic Canada was one of only 14 regions in the world which was included in this study.
Dr. Wade Locke, professor of economics at Memorial, participated in the OECD study and wrote the report on Atlantic Canada. He will be accompanied by three panelists: Elizabeth Beale, president and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, based in Halifax, N.S.; Cyril Farrell, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium, based in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL; and Graham Letto, mayor of Labrador City, the president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and a long-time practitioner of regional development.
“The purpose of this particular session is to promote the value of Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic in helping to solve the social and economic problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Michael Clair, associate director, public policy, Harris Centre.
“This session is part of our Memorial Presents series which aims to create forums where the public can discuss important issues of public policy. The Harris Centre believes that an effective democracy depends on informed citizens, and the independence and integrity of Memorial University guarantees a non-partisan forum for such discussions.”
Mr. Clair said participants should walk away with a comprehensive understanding of the role that colleges and universities play in “enhancing the quality of life and developing the economy of their home regions.”
He said that in the age of globalization and of the knowledge economy, the role of colleges and universities has increased in importance, even if most don’t understand exactly how these institutions function. However, Mr. Clair noted that people have come to realize colleges and universities are essential in creating a competitive and compassionate society.
“Institutions of higher learning not only educate individuals to take up highly-skilled positions in the workforce, but they also provide essential services to society as a whole,” he noted. “They are an engine of innovation, bringing researchers and entrepreneurs together. They provide a window onto the world as well as a mirror to the society in which they reside. They are an important gateway for new immigrants, many of whom are highly skilled. And they are important employers of local labour and purchasers of local products. It is impossible to think of a modern society today which does not include colleges and universities.”
The general public is invited to attend the session. Admission is free and there is no registration fee.
The session will be webcast live on the Internet on the Harris Centre’s website,, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (NST).
Viewers will be able to submit questions or comments to the speakers by e-mail, and these will be read out during the session.
Free parking for the session is available in Area 18, located between the Queen Elizabeth II Library and the Prince Philip Parkway.
A reception will be held following the discussion, courtesy of the Harris Centre.
Memorial Presents is a series of public forums hosted by the Harris Centre on issues of important public policy in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Media Backgrounder
OECD study “Higher Education and Regions: Globally Competitive, Locally Engaged”
In 2004, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) undertook a study of the role of colleges and universities in regional development. The OECD is the Paris-based organization representing governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world. The OECD is committed to supporting sustainable economic growth, boosting employment, raising living standards, maintaining financial stability, assisting international economic development, and contributing to growth in world trade. The OECD also shares its expertise and exchanges views with other, non-member countries.
The study focused on the regional engagement of higher education institutions in 14 regions across 12 countries. Specifically, the study looked at strategies at the institutional, regional and national levels to better understand the drivers and the barriers to regional engagement. Universities, colleges, and other post-secondary establishments were asked to evaluate their regional engagement in a variety of spheres, such as:
  • their contribution to regional innovative initiatives;
  • their role in the development of the region’s human capital;
  • their input into social, cultural and environmental development; and
  • their influence in building regional capacity to be competitive in an increasingly global economy.
Higher education institutions as well as the respective public authorities responsible for territorial and higher education development at the national and regional levels participated in this OECD study. The 14 regions studied, spread across 12 countries, included:
  • Atlantic Canada (Canada)
  • Busan (Korea)
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Jutland-Funen (Denmark)
  • Jyväskylä region (Finland)
  • North East of England (United Kingdom)
  • Northern Paraná (Brazil)
  • Öresund (Denmark-Sweden)
  • State of Nuévo León (Mexico)
  • Sunshine-Fraser Coast (Australia)
  • Trødelag (Norway)
  • Twente (Netherlands)
  • Valencia (Spain)
  • Värmland (Sweden)
Each of the 14 regions that participated in the study submitted a self-evaluation report using a common framework developed by an OECD task group. Dr. Wade Locke, an economist at Memorial University, was the regional coordinator for the Atlantic Canada component of the OECD study. His work was overseen by a steering committee composed of representatives from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), each of the four Atlantic provincial governments, the Atlantic Provinces Community College Consortium (APCCC) and the Association of Atlantic Universities. As funders of the project, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Memorial University’s Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development also participated on the Steering Committee.
The next step was a visit to Atlantic Canada in September 2006 by an OECD review team, consisting of Dr. Steve Garlick (Australia), Dr. Gordon Davies (USA), Dr. Mario Polèse (Canada) and Dr. Fumi Kitagawa (Japan). (See “Findings From the Atlantic Canada Peer Review Report” below.)
An international peer review team, comprised of representatives of higher education institutions as well as regional development experts, conducted site visits to all 14 regions and prepared independent reports, which were submitted to each region for their feedback. This peer review report was an essential component of the OECD study.
Finally, an OECD task group prepared a final synthesis report, drawing from regional case studies and a commissioned review of literature. The final report was released at an OECD conference in Valencia, Spain, in September 2007. This report is available at
The final OECD report considered regional engagement of higher education in several dimensions, notably: knowledge creation through research and technology transfer; knowledge transfer through education and human resources development and cultural and community development, which can, among other things, create the conditions in which innovation thrives.
APEC and the Harris Centre are leading the effort in Atlantic Canada to prepare reports and workshops / conferences that will distil the regional and provincial implications of the international OECD study. This additional work builds on a number of key informant interviews, workshops and roundtables that were held in Atlantic Canada to gather regional perspectives from a large variety of groups and individuals on the role of higher education institutions in regional development. The Harris Centre has provided funding to Dr. Locke to prepare a report on the implications of the study to Newfoundland and Labrador.
In addition, the Harris Centre is organizing a “Memorial Presents” public policy forum From Ivory Tower to Regional Power: The role of universities and colleges in regional development on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, featuring Dr. Locke and representatives from APEC and the APCCC.
On Oct. 16-18, 2008, the Harris Centre will host an international conference Knowledge in Motion ‘08 to build upon the OECD project and to enhance benefits for community, industry, government and institutional stakeholders in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The review team noted that higher education institutions (HEIs) face the following challenges in contributing to regional development:
  • Retaining graduates; improving lifelong learning opportunities; improving literacy and numeracy skills; attracting out-of-region and foreign students; and targeting skills shortages.
  • Improving the competitiveness of regional researchers in national research funding opportunities; enhancing the ability of community colleges to attract national funding for applied research for community-oriented solutions; and aligning university research to community needs.
  • Increasing the relatively low level of matching funding provided for innovation in the region by local business, and improving the innovation absorptive capacity of the micro and small enterprises that dominate the local communities of the region.
The report noted that the 19 universities and four community college systems (with about 50 campuses in total) were under provincial jurisdiction for education, but that research and innovation funding was predominantly federal. It stated that most HEIs recognize the importance of local/provincial/ regional engagement and that there were a number of Atlantic region and provincial initiatives to support HEI engagement in regional development.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the OECD report noted several successful initiatives.
  • The OECD team noted that they were “impressed in particular with the broker role being played by the Harris Centre at Memorial University where university research and community need are brought together.” The Harris Centre was also highlighted as an example of “specialist research and consultancy” and as an example of a “laboratory for social development research.”
  • The Genesis Centre at Memorial was highlighted as an example of innovation and technology transfer between universities and business enterprises.
  • The College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook was highlighted as an example of “applied community-focused research” by colleges.
  • The OECD Peer Review Team made the following recommendations for Atlantic Canada:
  • Begin discussions around the creation of human capital to meet regional needs that encapsulate all education sectors and include areas such as: pathways between schools, vocational education, community colleges and universities; reduction of duplication and overlap in program offerings; a focus on the international student as a migration policy instrument; and strong enterprising connections to regional priority areas through initiatives like work-integrated learning;
  • Link these discussions to involve the sectors of the community which are traditionally bypassed by higher education, such as those with literacy and numeracy difficulties with older ages, and from disadvantaged communities;
  • Consider jointly creating a research granting fund for higher education that focuses on regional priority areas, encourages partnership with business and community organizations and encompasses also the community colleges;
  • Consider creating internal research seed funds within individual higher education institutions focusing on regional objectives;
  • Encourage expatriate research experts back to work on key regional priority areas in Atlantic Canada;
  • Encourage industry experts into universities to foster co-operative research initiatives with industry;
  • Introduce mechanisms in higher education institutions that facilitate student and staff entrepreneurship and innovation, knowledge brokerage for business, avoid excessive complexity in the innovation support environment, and promote close connection of processes of innovation to agreed regional priority areas;
  • Establish a competitive regional fund to facilitate collaboration and structural adjustment within and between higher education institutions with the aim to strengthen regional connectivity and to achieve resource savings;
  • Recognize the regional engagement activities of each higher education institution, with the self-evaluation survey providing a useful starting point;
  • Emphasize the importance of social, cultural and environmental contributions in regional development outcomes, and recognize their role as providing an important supporting fabric to key economic objectives for the region;
  • Integrate a clear regional dimension into the strategies, policies and staff incentive arrangements of higher education institutions, including the institution’s management quality performance frameworks.
For further information, please contact Dr. Rob Greenwood, director, Harris Centre, (709) 737-6170, or

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For more information, please contact Michael Clair, associate director, public policy, The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, Memorial University, at 737-7963 or


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