Maria Pietilä (University of )

Maria Pietilä
(University of Helsinki)

This report of the EGOS Colloquium is written by Maria Pietilä. Maria works at Higher Education Governance and Management group (HEGOM) at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki. She is working on her dissertation, which deals with academic leadership and governance in Finnish universities, especially related to research work and academic careers.

The 30th annual EGOS Colloquium gathered some 2100 researchers from 53 countries to the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The conference took place in July 3–5, 2014. The atmosphere in Rotterdam was of course especially lively not just because of the conference, but also because of the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

This year’s conference theme was “Reimagining, Rethinking, Reshaping: Organizational Scholarship in Unsettled Times”. EGOS, which is an abbreviation for European Group for Organizational Studies, is a scholarly association mainly for social scientists and business scholars, who have a mutual interest in organizations as study units. A central common denominator is the journal Organization Studies, which is published in collaboration with EGOS. Due to the diversity behind such a scholarly association, also the conference embraced a diversity of themes, perspectives and people from different disciplinary backgrounds. This made the conference a truly interdisciplinary one.

This year’s conference was the first EGOS I attended. The conference was structured so that the opening ceremony and the first keynote were followed by sub-theme sessions. There was yet another keynote on the second day, more sub-theme sessions, and parallel sub-plenaries. The third day ended after some more sub-theme sessions and lunch. The conference was preceded by workshops on academic reviewing, paper development, and early-career issues, but unfortunately I didn’t attend those.

The first keynote speaker was Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont Collegiate Professor of Management at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. He talked about ‘the coming collapse of the corporation’ and succeeded in stirring at least my imagination. As the title suggests, the keynote was about the changes from a corporate-centered society (characterized by tangible products, concentrated corporate control, etc. such as in traditional manufacturing industry) towards more virtual organizations with more dispersed structures (characterized by complex networks of subscribers and producers worldwide) and the (in many cases detrimental) effects of these changes on employment and value creation at the level of national economies. This made me think where the higher education institutions stand within this development. Of course, there might be multiple answers depending on the context. Overall, it seems that higher education institutions may stand in the more traditional end of the spectrum due to their national ties and connections with national cultures. Still, the ‘virtual models’ of universities, especially related to teaching, point to the evolving, more hybrid models.