Plublished in Hirsch, W. Z. & Weber L. E. (eds) As the Walls of Academia are Tumbling Down, Economica, Glion Colloquium Series Nr. 2, London, Paris, Genève, 2002
It has become a banality to affirm that the world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace and that this aflects the environment of all social, economic and political activities. Although perhaps less visibly, this evolution concerns also education, and in particular, the higher education sector and its institutions (Weber, 1999). However, the implications for the missions
and the governance of higher education institutions, and in particular of researlch-intensive universities, as well as for national and even regional policies, differ significantly from those of other organizations, in particular business firms. If, in order to survive, firms have practically no alternative other than to be responsive to the changing environment, research-intensive universities should not only be responsive, but also responsible towards the community they serve, that is, they should protect the long term interests of society. Although they converge in the long run, these two sides of universities’missions can well be contradictory in the short run. Obviously, a period of rapid change, as we experience now, creates a growing tension between the necessities to be responsive in the short run and responsible in the long run. Whereas universities can often be blamed for being too conservative or even neglectful, in other words not responsive enough to the changing environment, they may also, under pressure, make decisions without paying due attention to their long term responsibilities.