Tag: organization

Guest blogger: All universities are “excellent,” but some more than others: the rise of elite associations

Jelena Brankovic (Bielefeld University and Ghent University)

This guest entry is written by Jelena Brankovic. Jelena is a Research Associate at Bielefeld University (Germany) and a PhD Candidate at Ghent University (Belgium). She is also a HEEM master programme graduate. Currently she is working on university responses to status dynamics and competition in higher education. 

You can follow Jelena on Twitter: @jelena3121

Universities have been forming associations for more than a century now. Among some of the oldest examples of such ventures are, for instance, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the US, established as early as in 1899, the Rectors’ Conference of Swiss Universities (est. 1904), or the Association of Commonwealth Universities (1913). In principle, an association is established by two or more universities which have something in common, which could be either some specific characteristic, such as religious affiliation, ownership structure, or, perhaps, disciplinary focus; or, more often, a shared geographic, political, cultural or linguistic border. Or both. Think of examples such as the Association for European Life Science Universities, Association of Universities in Portuguese Speaking Countries, Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges, or, for example, Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin-America.

Associations are many and their number has increased over time. They can be regional, national and international. In addition to the level or field in which they operate, we can also distinguish between, on the one hand, those which are there to represent interests of the university institution in a particular region, such as right to autonomy and well-known academic freedoms of its members, and, on the other, those which are tied by some additional characteristic or cause, such as, for instance, the already mentioned religious orientation. To distinguish, we could call the former generalist and the latter specialist.

Any of this is hardly news. However, in recent years a particular type of university associations seems to be gaining in popularity, both in national contexts and internationally. Unlike the most commonly found type of specialist associations which seek to differentiate in a more functional or horizontal fashion, this type is made up of vertically differentiating – or status-driven – university associations. These associations are characterised by high status of their members, claims to superiority in terms of their quality and – typically – exclusivity when it comes to membership. In other words, they are invite-only clubs of the small elite at the apex of the respective hierarchy of universities. Think of the Russell Group in the UK, Group of Eight in Australia, League of European Research Universities (LERU), Japanese RU11 and you get the picture.




Seminar Recording on the Academic Profession in Chair and Department Systems

We are delighted to share with you another seminar recording from the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures). HEIK is a research group located at the Faculty of Educational Sciences in University of Oslo, the coordinating institution of Hedda.

Ester Höhle  (INCHER, University of Kassel)

Ester Höhle
(INCHER Kassel)

This time, we are pleased to feature Ester Höhle (INCHER Kassel, Germany) who gave a presentation titled: “The Academic Profession in Chair and Department Systems. An Empirical Analysis in Eleven European Countries

Listen without the Flashplayer

Abstract for the session: 
In Europe, different higher education systems co-exist simultaneously and make Europe an interesting research target. The focus of this paper is on whether chair systems and department systems as described by Clark (1983), Neave and Rhoades (1987) and Kreckel (2008) go hand in hand with specific patterns of the academic career. This question is treated empirically with the use of survey data from the international EUROAC project, where academics employed at universities were asked about their employment conditions, their career path, time use etc. and is supplemented with information from several country reports. The eleven European countries examined are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Finland and Norway.

First, the main features of the models are described followed by the categorization of the higher education system in each country in relation to the models. Second, the key features of academic career paths as they are realized in each country are discussed in terms of the predictions by the models. The analysis shows that the organizational structure of either chair or department does have a major impact on individual careers, barriers and chances and supports the description in six of the 11 countries precisely. In the other five countries (Italy, Portugal, Poland, Finland and Norway), however, at least two additional career patterns are observed that consist of a mixture of the predicted patterns. These are not well covered by the scholars’ descriptions and might require more detailed characterizations from current researchers.




EGOS 2014: Reimagining, Rethinking, Reshaping: Organizational Scholarship in Unsettled Times

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.




New working paper on organizational identity by Prof. B. Stensaker

heikwp201301We are pleased to share another working paper by the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures) at the Faculty of Educational Sciences in University of Oslo.

The paper is by professor Bjørn Stensaker (HEIK) and is titled “Questioning the Idea of the Ivory Tower: Organizational identity as a mediator between continuity and change“.

While universiites on the one hand are considered stable organizations, empirical studies also indicate change processes. This paper analyzes this contradiction by focusing on organizational identity as a concept for researching the dynamics between continuity and change.

Professor Bjørn Stensaker is employed at the University of Oslo where he is also teaching at the Hedda Master Programme in Higher Education.

You can read the whole abstract and download the paper at the HEIK website




Call for papers: Organizing education – Sociological approaches, analyses and findings

conferenceorganizationsThe conference “Organizing Education – Sociological Approaches, Analyses and Findings” will be held 13–14 June 2014 at the University of Teacher Education in Basel, Switzerland. The conference is organized by the Education Sections of the Sociological Associations of Switzerland (SGS), Germany (DGS) & Austria (ÖGS).

The main aim of the conference is to put focus to extend the  organizational perspectives to theoretically and empirically examine themes such as inequality, quality, reforms and so forth, as well as to strengthen educational sociology by using the epistemological and methodological tools from organizational research to focus on the specifics and dynamics of organizations.

Conference contributions are expected on the following themes:

  • Genesis, Functioning, Change and Mortality of Educational Organizations
  • Educational Organizations and their Environments
  • On the Relationship(s) among Educational Organizations
  • Education as an Objective and Activity of Organizations
  • The Production and Distribution of Education: Consequences for Pathways, “Consumers” and Careers
  • Organizational Culture(s)
  • Membership in Educational Organizations
Read more about the conference main theme and subthemes downloading the call of proposal here (pdf) or by visiting the conference website.

The abstract (5000-6500 characters, document max. 2 pages) should be submitted here in Word and pdf by the 30 November 2013.