Founded in 2012, FH Upper Austria’s Department for Higher Education Research andDevelopment (HERD) has been pursuing an innovative approach of university development – it focuses on an informed nexus of higher education studies and organizational development.
The field of higher education studies (HES) has been analysing higher education (HE) systems and organizations since the 1960s. However, while European and national policy makers increasingly consider its findings, HE management has so far taken little notice of the field. FH Upper Austria has broken the mould by utilizing HES’ potentials to support evidence-based management decisions.
HERD conducts studies that consider and reveal universities of applied sciences (UAS)’ features as specific HE institutions. Despite being on par with traditional universities, UAS’ are still different to them, especially due to their focus on vocational teaching, their emphasis on applied research or their close ties to regional industry and social community. HERD considers these particularities and, in doing so, breaks up some antiquated or undifferentiated norms and images of higher education and research.
HERD undertakes research on higher education leadership & management, organizational & staff development, diversity, research & development and teaching & learning. It analyses changes in national, European and global higher education and science concerning their relevance for UAS and interprets them for HE policymaking and management. Hence, inspired by the idea of institutional research and based on knowledge gained in its research activities, HERD supports FH Upper Austria’s management team and staff in strategic and informed decision making. It frequently collaborates with the departments for human resources, quality management, diversity management and teaching development. In turn, these collaborations and daily questions concerning the academic lifecycle at FH Upper Austria inspire HERD’s research interests. What are the current challenges rising in the institution? How can HERD support staff and management in coping with them? These considerations are essential stimuli for research interests and future projects.