Assessing Europes University-Based Research

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Executive Summary

The political context Assessment of university‐based research1 (AUBR) has become a major issue for a wide range of stakeholders at all levels. One of the main reasons is that research performance is widely regarded as being a major factor in economic performance. Because of their interlinked roles in education, research, and innovation, universities are considered key to the success of the Lisbon Strategy with its move towards a global and knowledge‐based economy. Improving the capacity and quality of university‐based research is thought to be vitally important for innovation, including social innovation. In the words of the revised Lisbon Strategy (European Commission (2005), p. 20), “knowledge, meaning R&D, innovation and education, is a key driver of productivity growth. Knowledge is a critical factor with which Europe can ensure competitiveness in a global world”. According to the Commission (p. 20), the economic relevance of research requires, among other things, ‘increased and more effective public expenditure’, a view that is shared by an increasingly large number of Member States.

The economic dimension of (university‐based) research in terms of expected economic and societal benefit and increased expenditure goes a long way to explain the heightened concern for quality and excellence in research, for transparency, accountability, comparability and competition, and for performance indicators and assessment. The following quote from the Commission’s Communication Delivering on the modernisation agenda for universities: Education, research and innovation of 2006 (p. 7f.) illustrates this: Universities should be funded more for what they do than for what they are, by focusing funding on relevant outputs rather than inputs, … Competitive funding should be based on institutional evaluation systems and on diversified performance indicators with clearly defined targets and indicators supported by international benchmarking.