Centre for Economic Transformation| CET

The university’s role in sustainable development

activating entrepreneurial scholars as agents of change


The role of (entrepreneurial) universities as change agents in regional economic development has been highlighted before, but how they can drive regional sustainable development in developing countries has been largely neglected hitherto.

Using qualitative methods, we show how being confronted with adverse poverty and pollution in the local context, can drive a university to develop a sustainability vision that accordingly becomes the driver of institutional change.

We demonstrate how local campus leadership, a holistic teaching and research program, and student involvement ensued significant local effects in the short run. Yet, we also show how liabilities of smallness hinders the creation of significant sustainable local impact. Instead, the campus became an incubation space for novel institutional practices for regional development. Indeed, the most promising initiatives were spun back into the original campus for their scale-up phase.

This study advances insights on the entrepreneurial university by, first, presenting universities as drivers for sustainable change through education and outreach rather than via traditional commercialization activities, notably in developing countries. Second, it shows the risks and value of creating a separate space for novel concepts for sustainable development to be tested out before bringing these back to the principal location.

Reference Wakkee, I., van der Sijde, P., Vaupell, C., & Ghuman, K. (2019). The university’s role in sustainable development: activating entrepreneurial scholars as agents of change. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 141, 195-205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2018.10.013

Publication date

Apr 2019


Peter van der Sijde
Christiaan Vaupell
Karminder Ghuman
Christiaan Vaupell


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