Our higher education institutions hold keys to our innovation – and our future


Uwe Wilkesmann is Director of the Center for Higher Education (Zentrum für Hochschulbildung) at TU Dortmund University. He also holds a professorship at that university for organisational studies, continuing education and social management. His teaching emphases at the university include empirical social research, educational sociology and knowledge management.

WiHo editorial team: How did you come to focus on research on higher education and science? Did any central event or experience take you in that direction?
Wilkesmann: I have long concerned myself with knowledge management, knowledge transfer, the knowledge society and knowledge-intensive work. This led me to concentrate on certain knowledge-intensive organisations – namely, higher education institutions. Our higher education system needs to play a more-central role in our society, since it holds keys to our innovation and future, and since it provides the basis for comprehensive, scientifically based discussion about the question "what kind of society do we want to live in?"

WiHo editorial team: Regarding the status quo of research on higher education and science in Germany: In what areas is such research especially strong? In what ways does it still need to improve?
Wilkesmann: Research on higher education and science has been strong in comparative case studies with a qualitative approach. In addition, our research sector can be expected to work well with the extensive longitudinal data sets that the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) will soon be making available. What we still lack are quantitative (longitudinal) studies, especially quantitative studies employing international comparisons. And the range of theories available to us could be usefully expanded.

WiHo editorial team: How do you think Germany compares internationally in terms of its research on higher education and science? What can we learn from other countries, and from which countries can we learn?
Wilkesmann: The U.S. research sector is exemplary in terms of extensive provision of data sets. Furthermore, the U.S. and the UK are considerably ahead of us, here in Germany, in the area of study programmes in higher education (i.e. degree programmes in education) and, thus, in professionalisation of higher-education administrations and their contexts.
Over the past 10 years, I have repeatedly worked at a Hong Kong university. That region is highly interesting in that globalisation is really "cooking" there. And it is interesting in that the Chinese invest a great deal of money in their higher education system. What's more, it's an area in which two cultures are meeting in innovative ways.