Purpose: This study contributes to research on knowledge management (KM) in higher education institutions (HEIs) by studying its processes, knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer, in Mauritius.
It is widely accepted that the main role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is to create and share knowledge. However, these roles of universities have significantly changed over time due to two main revolutions. Universities, which were originally created with the purpose of teaching, added research to their role in the first academic revolution in the late 19th century. Later, a second revolution added economic development, and enterprise to their missions (Schmitz et al., 2014). In knowledge-based societies, universities are being called upon to play a vital role in the innovation system of a country as one of the partners in the “Triple Helix”, alongside government and industry (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000). This new dynamic academic environment requires successful higher education institutions to constantly create new knowledge and disseminate it widely (Adhikari, 2010). Bano and Taylor (2014) argue that this change in role for HEIs, from knowledge creation to application of knowledge and collaboration with other sectors of the economy, could have both positive and negative effects. On one hand, it can make the universities more entrepreneurial and innovative (Schmitz et al., 2014), whilst, on the other hand, it could erode their academic freedom and independence (Bano and Taylor, 2014). Despite the centrality of knowledge and its management to the contribution of universities, there has been very little acknowledgement that they are knowledge intensive organisations (Schmitz et al., 2014), and limited research into knowledge processes and their management in universities. Previous studies in developed higher education sectors, in Japan, Iran, Malaysia, UK and India, confirm that universities are involved in knowledge creation (Tian et al., 2009; Siadat et al., 2012), knowledge sharing (Cheng et al., 2009; Fullwood et al., 2013), and knowledge transfer (Gertner et al., 2011; Gera, 2012). Furthermore, studies in developing economies and on the relationships between KM processes in HEIs, as have been carried out in private sector (Andreeva and Kianto, 2011; Lee et al., 2013), are very few. Mauritius is a country with a developing higher education sector that includes both public and private institutions. The Government of the Republic of Mauritius has a vision for transforming Mauritius into a knowledge hub and a regional centre of excellence for higher education, such that the sector makes a significant contribution to Mauritius’ economic competitiveness. As such, it provides an interesting context for this research.