The focus of this study is to explore the phenomenon of the Centres of Excellence in the higher education context. The starting point of the work is the abundant rhetoric on the role of higher education in modern society, its aims and functions. The environment in which European universities operate forces universities to change their core practices and routine activities, imposes challenges and calls for immediate actions. On the other hand, the European university is a sufficiently traditional setting, which has long preserved rules and norms that may come in conflict with modern developments. Based on these views, the study offers an in-depth review of two theoretical models: a modern entrepreneurial model, rooted in the New Public Management practices and a traditional European model, which highlights the importance of Humboldtian ideals. Further the analysis of the case, the Aquaculture Protein Centre, is conducted according to the aforementioned theoretical frameworks, using the core dimensions of organisational structure, leadership, culture, and external links. For the purpose of the study qualitative methods that comprise of interviews, document review and simple participant observation, were used.
The comparative discussion draws the conclusions that even though some core academic values and characteristics of the organisation can be attributed to the traditional university model, many characteristics indicate the entrepreneurial behaviour inherent to some members of organisation and a shift from traditional features namely collegiality, the notion of knowledge for its own sake, and significance of academic networks, to those dictated by the modern developments of the New Public Management ideas.