European Flagship Universities: balancing academic excellence and socio-economic relevance (FORFI)

This project examines how flagship universities in Europe use their increased institutional autonomy and balance goals of excellence and socio-economic relevance.

For more information please visit the external project page.


The overall objective of this project is to produce relevant insights into the way in which selected flagship universities in Europe interpret and use their room to manoeuvre ('institutional autonomy') in creating an effective balance between strengthening the excellence and securing the socio-economic relevance of their academic activities.

The project addresses the following two questions:

  1. What are the organised settings and institutional characteristics that attract highly qualified staff and students, encourage academic excellence and free enquiry and also make universities take seriously their social and economic responsibilities?
  2. What are the main factors that over the last 10 years have affected these organised university settings and institutional characteristics?

The project will contribute to a better understanding of how the organisational adaptations of Norwegian universities compare to the organizational adaptations of universities in other small Western European countries.

Project summary

The project will examine the ways in which European flagship universities have adapted over the last ten years to far-reaching changes in their political and socio-economic environments, and the extent to which these adaptations are initiated and implemented by the institutional leadership or as a consequence of external change drivers.

Flagship university is defined as a comprehensive research intensive university, located in one of its country?s largest urban areas. A flagship university is in general among the oldest and largest institutions for higher learning of its country.

The aim of the project is to provide Norwegian universities and policy makers with a better understanding of the change dynamics of flagship universities in selected other European countries and the ways in which changes in Norwegian universities compare to these.

The countries in question are the small(er) countries in three regions bordering Germany on the North (Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), the West (Belgium and the Netherlands), and the South (Austria and Switzerland). Through this project we want to contribute to the Norwegian discussion on the room to manoeuvre ('handlingsrom') or autonomy of Norwegian universities and university colleges, as well as to the strengthening of the knowledge basis of Norwegian knowledge area policies, especially in the areas of research and innovation.



The project is funded through the FORFI programme at NFR.


The project is led by Åse Gornitzka from ARENA (Centre for European Studies, UiO), with close cooperation with HEIK group at PFI.

Research category

Applied research


Published Feb. 29, 2012 5:24 PM - Last modified Apr. 30, 2015 10:45 AM


E-mail: Peter Maassen

Phone: +47-22844122