4 November 2019 • HOP, by Melanie Zierse
Mutual disdain between researchers from universities of applied sciences and research universities
Research collaboration between universities of applied sciences and research universities is far from perfect. Biases make the divide bigger than it should be, concludes research company Researchned.
At the end of December minister Van Engelshoven will present her strategic agenda for higher education, in which she will outline the policies for upcoming years. In preparation, she has asked Researchned to investigate how universities of applied sciences and research universities collaborate in research. She also wanted to know how universities of applied sciences in other countries deal with the issue of doctorate titles.
Interviews with thirty lecturers and professors clearly reveal that researchers from universities of applied sciences and research universities have different opinions on the issue. Many of the interviewees from research universities stated that there is very little collaboration and that their faculty doesn’t feel it’s important. Professors from universities of applied sciences, however, state that the collaboration with research universities is pretty good.
This contrasting perspective is partially the result of a difference in research capacity. The research groups at universities of applied sciences are much smaller and have much less money to spend. “Even if the research groups collaborated intensively with the research universities, it’s possible that it wouldn’t affect most of the research universities, which may lead to the impression at research universities that the research groups have little relevance,” according to the report.
But this faulty relationship is also the result of culture differences, a difference in focus and the fact that research universities don’t know much about research at universities of applied sciences. “There seems to be a mutual disdain and a divide that is bigger than it should be.” Researchers at research universities are thought to live in an ivory tower, far from the real world. University of applied sciences professors only dedicate themselves to ‘hobby projects’ of lower quality than scientific research.
When there is collaboration it usually occurs in doctorate projects. Also in healthcare, technology and teacher training we see joint projects. People with appointments at both research universities and universities of applied sciences could have a positive impact. When researchers finally find each other, the collaboration usually goes smoothly.
Doctoral candidates who come from a university of applied sciences to do their research at a research university have a harder time. “They are usually a bit behind in their research skills, there is less time available, the environment is less motivating and supportive, and there are various barriers to developing contacts with other doctoral candidates,” according to the report.
Nevertheless, the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences wishes to offer its own doctoral programmes. However, the doctoral candidates must fit within the scope of the universities of applied sciences. They will not expand scientific horizons, as is the goal of doctoral candidates at research universities. Instead, their focus will be on practice-based innovation. There are a number of ongoing experiments underway in the art sector, where the production process is part of the doctorate.
Minister Van Engelshoven wants to know how other countries handle this. “Overall, none of the researched countries with a binary system have a substantially independent doctorate at universities of applied sciences,” according to the report. Doctorate degrees are only granted under supervision of a research university. In the art sector, just like in the Netherlands, there have been some experiments with doctorate research at universities of applied sciences.
Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science