Social innovation and higher education: evolution and future promise

Yenchun Jim Wu, Mark Goh, Yingping Mai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Scholarly attention to social innovation has increased rapidly in recent years, but a broad picture to illustrate the structure of the field, tracing its evolution and identifying new research areas has been lacking. Thus, we conduct a three-step method to explore the trajectory of academic research on social innovation and identify potential research opportunities. In the first step, the bibliometric mapping software VOSviewer is used to visualize the network of authors and keyword co-occurrences. Next, SciMAT is applied to illustrate the evolution and importance of the themes. Then, content analysis is used to identify how specific research topics in social innovation in higher education have evolved. The author-keyword occurrence analysis and evolution map results reveal that innovation and design thinking were the most prominent keywords, and the citation analysis indicates that the works of Swyngedouw, Moulaert, and Westley as the leading research works in this field. The most influential countries during the study period from 1996 to July 2021 were the UK, the US, and Italy. Furthermore, the research collaboration network is more active among developed countries than among developing countries. Three research streams in social innovation in higher education have been identified: curriculum transformation, community-university partnership, and helix partnerships. This study supports understanding how higher education is shaped through social innovation. The results from this study can serve as a research reference on the state of the art and point to new research opportunities, notably on the need to engage developing countries in collaborating on social innovation in higher education through design, engagement, and partnership.

Original languageEnglish
Article number283
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Economics,Econometrics and Finance
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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