| 7 minute read

Socially relevant education: Employing the Quadruple Helix Model

Tasha Day
Four hands high-fiving

In our article Bridging the gap: Reimagining higher education for 21st century skills, we discussed some of the challenges that the higher education sector is currently facing;  many students come out of university uninspired, with skills that do not match the current needs of the workforce. And due to environmental and technological disruptions, the skills that students need to thrive are subject to change; 44% of workers’ core skills are expected to change in the next five years[1] and employers consistently complain that HEIs fail to endow students with the relevant skills needed to perform effectively in the workplace[2]. With this backdrop, it is important that universities work to align the skills and competencies needed to become employable and impactful in the 21st Century with those taught and nurtured on campus[3]. Quadruple Helix Collaboration is a promising way to achieve this.

How can we begin to address some of these challenges?

In order to increase this employability, it is necessary to understand future employers’ needs. To do this Universities can partner with employers and other external stakeholders to identify relevant skills needed for graduates, as well as adapting curricula and pedagogies to suit this skill development[4]. There are a broad range of external stakeholders who can be involved in the future-proofing of education, from future employers and entrepreneurs, to governments and members of the community.

Quadruple Helix Collaboration

The Triple Helix model provides a framework for collaboration between universities, industry and government. The primary functions of the Triple Helix are centred around creating, disseminating and utilising knowledge and innovation between these three spheres[5]. The Quadruple Helix expands the model by incorporating a fourth element – civil society, including individuals, community groups, non-profit organisations, etc. – into the existing framework[6], recognising citizens as key contributors to and beneficiaries of knowledge, who bring diverse perspectives, needs, and societal challenges that inform and enrich the collaborative innovation process[7].

Source: GRRIP Project (2020)[8]

Collaborative educational programmes can nurture students’ entrepreneurial mindset and endow them with durable skills for the 21st Century, as well as enhancing their learning experience, career choices, self-efficacy, and provide benefit for industry and society as students enhance their ability to make impact.

Integrating external stakeholders into educational programmes through Quadruple Helix collaboration can make these programmes more innovative, entrepreneurial and societally relevant. These educational programmes can nurture students’ entrepreneurial mindset and endow them with durable skills for the 21st Century[9], as well as enhancing their learning experience, career choices, self-efficacy, and provide benefit for industry and society as students enhance their ability to make impact.

Curriculum co-design and co-delivery

Quadruple helix collaboration in education can take the shape of curriculum co-design and co-delivery with external stakeholders. Curriculum co-design and co-delivery involves partners from different sectors working with educators and curriculum designers to combine their complementary strengths, knowledge, skills and resources, in order to create and deliver programmes that align with sectoral and societal needs[10]. Curriculum co-designers might consist of future employers, parents, industry bodies, NGOs, local agencies, public organisations, local government, entrepreneurs, alumni, as well as other HE institutions[11]. The roles of external stakeholders include:

A table that details the different activities that external stakeholders can take in curriculum co-design and co-delivery
Source: Nghia (2018)[12]

Associated benefits of employing Quadruple Helix approach in education

The integration of external stakeholders in educational programmes provides a wide range of benefits to those involved[13]. For students it equips them with social awareness, critical thinking abilities, understanding of the work context and ethical responsibility necessary to navigate the multifaceted challenges of our world. By learning in real-world contexts, students are empowered to become active and engaged citizens, putting theoretical knowledge into practice and in the process developing essential soft and transversal skills. The potential to interact with future employers adds a motivational element, fostering a sense of purpose and direction in their educational journey. This approach, therefore, not only enhances their academic experience and self-efficacy but also increases their future job opportunities.

For universities, the incorporation of external stakeholders in education programmes enhances the quality and relevance of the teaching curriculum, aligning academic learning with real-world industrial practices, and societal needs. This not only boosts the credibility of education but also responds effectively to governmental and institutional pressures for the development of relevant knowledge and skills. As universities engage with external partners, their profile and status are elevated, leading to recognition on the global stage. Furthermore, the involvement of external stakeholders contributes to higher student attendance and motivation, creating an enriched learning environment that inspires students and teachers alike.

As the ultimate beneficiary, society is nurtured by Quadruple Helix collaboration. By harnessing the unique perspectives, expertise, and experiences of engaged stakeholders, collaborative curriculum development ensures that education becomes not only more relevant and responsive to societal needs but also highly impactful. Integrating community stakeholders into education enriches the curriculum, addressing both local and global societal needs and contributing to the development of sustainable solutions.


Quadruple Helix collaboration is, by all accounts, a vital tool for innovating our education system to be fit for the 21st Century. By observing and understanding diverse and potentially conflicting motives and interests among stakeholders, we can be better able to grasp and prepare for the dynamics that occur in collaborative curriculum design[14]. Through persisting and navigating through the complexity of these processes, Quadruple Helix collaboration emerges as a transformative force for shaping the future of higher education and empowering students for success in the 21st century.


[1] WEF (2023) Future of Jobs 2023. World Economic Forum. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2023.pdf

[2] Chiang, W. S. (2021). Involvement of External Stakeholders in Designing Pedagogy for Experiential Learning at University Level: A Case Study. EDUCATUM Journal of Social Sciences7(2), 45-56.

[3] Choy, S., & Delahaye, B. (2009). University-industry partnership for pedagogy: Some principles for practice. In Proceedings of the 16th World Conference on Cooperative Education and World Integrated Learning (pp. 1-10). World Association for Cooperative Education.

[4] Chowdhury, T. A., & Miah, M. K. (2016). Employability skills for entry-level human resources management positions: Perceptions of students and employers. Australian Journal of Career Development, 25(2), 55–68.

[5] Ranga M, Etzkowitz H (2013) Triple helix systems: an analytical framework for innovation policy and practice in the knowledge society. Ind High Educ 27(4):237–262

[6] Carayannis, E. G., & Campbell, D. F. J. (2009). “Mode 3” and “Quadruple Helix”: toward a 21st century fractal innovation ecosystem. International Journal of Technology Management, 46(3/4), 201. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijtm.2009.023374

[7] Orazbayeva, B., Davey, T., Plewa, C., & Galán-Muros, V. (2019). Engagement of academics in education-driven university-business cooperation: a motivation-based perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 45(8), 1723–1736. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1582013

[8] GRRIP Project (2020) Why is Quadruple Helix engagement so important? GRRIP Project. Available: https://grrip.eu/why-is-quadruple-helix-engagement-so-important/

[9] Mandrup, M., & Jensen, T. L. (2017). Educational Action Research and Triple Helix principles in entrepreneurship education: introducing the EARTH design to explore individuals in Triple Helix collaboration. Triple Helix4(1), 1-26.

[10] ETF (2018) Co-curriculum development and delivery toolkit – Teach Too. Education and Training Foundation. Available: https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Co-curriculum-development-and-delivery-toolkit_1.pdf

[11] Marshall, S. J. (2018). Internal and External Stakeholders in Higher Education. In Shaping the University of the Future (pp. 77–102). Springer.

[12] Nghia, T. L. H. (2018). External stakeholders’ roles and factors influencing their participation in developing generic skills for students in Vietnamese universities. Journal of Education and Work, 31(1), 72–86.

[13] Johnson, N. A. (1993). Reconsidering curriculum development: a framework for co-operation. Interchange24(4), 409-433.

[14] Lindsten, H., Auvinen, P., & Juuti, T. (2019). Internal and external stakeholders’ impact on product development curriculum design. Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education: Towards a New Innovation Landscape, E and PDE 2019, September, 12–17.

Ready for more?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our podcast episode Connecting communities through art: The Research Creation Showcase with Dr. Rachel Morley or our article Ways to foster external engagement and enable an innovation mindset.

Tasha Day (author) is a Project officer at UIIN, where she undertakes research activities and creates content on a wide variety of topics including entrepreneurship education, sustainability and research valorisation.

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