Higher education and the development of competencies for innovation in the workplace

Luis E. Vila (Economia Aplicada, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Pedro J. Perez (Economia Aplicada, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Francisco G. Morillas (Economia Aplicada, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 12 October 2012



This paper aims to analyze the production function nexus between higher education practice and the development of innovation‐related competencies by university graduates in Spain. The research hypothesis is the presence of statistically significant relationships between the development of innovational competencies and the modes of teaching and learning used in higher education practice.


The relationships are modeled through a set of stochastic frontier and variance component equations with the development of each competency as the dependent variable. The main explanatory variables capture the prevalence of diverse teaching/learning modes and the behavior of graduates during their studies. Controls for individual and study programs are also included. Data comes from the European graduate survey REFLEX and includes about 5,500 records.


Estimates show evidence of significant marginal effects of the teaching and learning modes and the development of specific competencies by graduates. Proactive methods in general, and problem‐based learning in particular, appear as the most effective classroom practices to develop the competencies required to innovate in the workplace.

Research limitations/implications

To guide the implementation of reforms in higher education, more must be learned about possible trade‐offs between the diverse types of resources involved and the outcomes obtained. Resources should be examined in terms of their relative costs and the results interpreted with regard to their value to individuals and society.


To the authors' knowledge, this is the first paper to explore quantitatively the influence of higher education practice on the development of the capabilities required to innovate in the workplace.



Vila, L., Perez, P. and Morillas, F. (2012), "Higher education and the development of competencies for innovation in the workplace", Management Decision, Vol. 50 No. 9, pp. 1634-1648. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251741211266723

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