Regional Leader, Regional Citizen and Regional Resource: Analyzing the Embedded Role of Universities in Their Regions


  • Chrys Gunasekara Queensland University of Technology


Higher Education, Regional Engagement


This paper proposes an analytical framework and discourse elements that can be used to comprehend the roles that universities play in regional development, in a way that is holistic and systemic, beyond the current tendency to reify the instrumental role that universities play in knowledge production to support the commercial development of products and processes (important as this undoubtedly is). The paper integrates and extends three existing bodies of literature that have developed along complementary but divergent lines: regional innovation systems, triple helix and university civic engagement. Three key activities of universities and their staff in regions are identified relating to human resource strategy, governance and knowledge capitalization. Drawing on and extending the existing literature, three roles are posited that represent overlapping orientations by universities to regional development: regional leader, regional citizen and regional resource. A benchmarking tool is proposed that can be used by policymakers and university managers to strengthen the contributions made by universities to their regions.