Inventing Problems for Technical Solutions – The Co-production of Universities, Skills and Engineering Challenges

Joakim Juhl, Anders Buch

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Whether one gazes to high-level international politics, the general public opinion, or how we as individuals identify ourselves as contributors to society, the industrialized West has increasingly come to see innovation as its core obligation around which everyone is drawn together in universal appreciation. The widely held imagination of innovation is that of a process by which new developments in science and technology are transformed into new business applications. Higher education and professions are eager to impose their expertises onto and claim authority within the domain of innovation. In the recent two decades, universities and other engineering institutions that are typically identified with technology development have expanded their research and teaching activities towards the business end of innovation.

This paper investigates the new emergent trend in academic institution building where business and management competencies are incorporated to engineering curricula. By comparing experiences from early career alumni from educations that are results of moving engineering institutions into business, we analyze the consequences imposed by changing disciplinary demarcations within academic and professional engineering knowledges.

Theoretical and methodological framework
The paper draws upon theoretical frameworks from Practice Theory (e.g. as developed by Theodore Schatzki, Stephen Kemmis et al.), and co-production and sociotechnical imaginaries from Science and Technology Studies (e.g. as developed by Sheila Jasanoff). The paper analyzes how knowledge institutions develop under influence from widely held ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’ and how particular forms of (technological) expertise and new governance principles, like New Public Management, place universities under pressure to reinvent themselves in order to accommodate expectations of higher effectiveness, competition, and economic yield.

Our results indicate that the efforts to reorganize academic engineering knowledge-productions towards business operate after an accountability principle that at one and the same time improve on the academic institution’s ranking while it presents a challenge to new kinds of graduates who face a professional job market that is ill prepared to adopt their novel forms of expertise.

The paper’s point of departure is one Danish setting where it investigates how a group of social scientists at The Technical University of Denmark invented the ‘Design and Innovation’ engineering program in response to the new demands for business-orientation within Danish universities. The upshot of this endeavor is discussed in relation to ethnographic research about the competence profiles of the program’s engineering candidates and how they fare in subsequent employment in industry.

The paper contributes to contemporary discussions of transformations within the university system by supplying empirical case material as well as conceptual resources for fathoming recent developments in the institutional reconfiguration of the university.

Publikationsdato18 aug. 2016
StatusUdgivet - 18 aug. 2016
BegivenhedCreative University Conference - Aalborg University, Aalborg, Danmark
Varighed: 18 aug. 201619 aug. 2016


KonferenceCreative University Conference
LokationAalborg University