Tag: strategy

News: University rankings as institutional strategy tools?

euaLast week, EUA published a new report on rankings  ‘Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?‘ (RISP) where the project examines in detail how rankings are used for institutional development across Europe. This report directly follows up on two earlier EUA reports on rankings that had primary focus on analyzing the methodology of rankings. Earlier this year, NIFU also published a report on the Nordic countries, where focus was on a comprehensive deconstruction of the rankings to identify what assures success, and to examine the impact of rankings on the leadership of research intensive universities in the Nordic region.

Data for the EUA report was gathered in various forms. An online survey was sent out to all EUA members (about 850). The survey yielded responses from 171 institutions in 39 countries, with a broad coverage of various European countries. 90% of the respondents came from instituions who are part of a ranking. Folloing up on the survey, a total of 48 meetings were conducted through six site visits to understand in more detail how instituions work with rankings, and a roundtable was organised with 25 participants from 18 European countries to create an arena for peer learning and sharing of experiences.

The main conclusion from this project is that rankings indeed do have an effect on institutional behaviour, but that this effect varies. 60% of those who answered in the survey replied that rankings are used in their institutional strategies – but the specific kind of use varied from examining certain indicators to using them in a comprehensive manner. Furthermore, it is highlighted that as many as 39% report that the results of rankings “to inform strategic, organisational, managerial or academic actions, and another third of respondents were planning to do so”. Unsurprisingly, rankings were widely used in marketing, but the respondents had also reported use in “the revision of university policies, the prioritisation of some research areas, recruitment criteria, resource allocation, revision of formal procedures, and the creation of departments or programme”.




Guest blogger: Where have all the scientists gone? Building research profiles at Dutch universities and its consequences for research

Grit Laudel  (TU Berlin)

Grit Laudel
(TU Berlin)

This guest entry is written by Grit Laudel (TU Berlin) and Elke Weyer (German Council of Science and Humanities). In their guest entry they examine how research profiles were built at Dutch universities, and analyse the impact of profile-building for both universities and scientific fields and the potential consequences of these developments for national science systems as a whole. 

This entry is based on the book chapter with the same title in: Richard Whitley & Jochen Gläser (eds.). Organisational Transformation and Scientific Change: The Impact of Institutional Restructuring on Universities and Intellectual Innovation.

The book is Vol.42 in the series of “Research in the Sociology of Organizations“.

Elke Weyer

Elke Weyer
(German Council of Science and Humanities)

New Public Management reforms in many countries include enhanced opportunities for universities to build research profiles and pressure by the government to do so. Building research profiles usually means the concentration of resources on fewer topics than before. Despite their prevalence in many higher education systems, these processes have found little attention in higher education research, and their effects are poorly understood. At the same time, concerns have been raised that profile-building might threaten the diversity of research and make some fields disappear from the national research landscape.

Our empirical study of profile-building at Dutch universities looked at micro-level processes of profile-building and their possible nation-level effects. The Netherlands provide an excellent laboratory for such analysis due to advanced New Public Management reforms and the relatively small size of the country, which makes national fields very sensitive to decisions at individual universities.




Hedda monthly literature tips

In this first post of the Hedda monthly literature tips series, we asked two doctoral fellows from University of Oslo – Rachel Sweetman and Jens Jungblut about their recent literature tips.

Here are their recommendations:

Does Education Matter?
by A. Wolf, 2002

9780141935669HThe book’s full title, ‘Does Education Matter? Myths About Education and Economic Growth’ sums up what this book is getting at, and why it’s asking such important questions for anyone interested in contemporary higher education. Wolf is an economist and policy analyst who turns her acute evidence-based gaze on the accepted orthodoxy that universities should be approached as drivers of economic growth.

This argument has underpinned many politicians enthusiasm for expanding and investing in mass higher education around the world. However, as Wolf argues through historical analysis, economic data and also more polemical discussions about the way the value and uses of universities have been presented over time, there is not really a very strong case to support this. There is little to suggest that more higher education leads to more growth or prosperity, although these sometimes accompany each other.

It’s a book that shows how important it is to check assumptions about higher education against evidence, and not to assume that the most influential voices, or accepted opinions are correct. It is also a book which does an unusually good job of combining careful and clear empirical evidence with argument and discussion. Wolf is not just interested in arguing that the case for universities as drivers of growth is weak, but seeks to convince her readers that by pursuing policies based on these assumptions, we may do harm; we risk failing to achieve aims related to growth while undermining more important and real functions and values which universities have served over time, such as the development of knowledge and new ideas. We also risk investing money in universities that might be better spent on other or earlier forms of education.




Guest blogger: Resistance towards the transplantations of management routines at the Mekelle University

Nigusse Weldemariam (Mekelle University, Ethiopia)

Hedda Master programme graduate Nigusse Weldemariam writes about the difficulties of introducing new management practices and the disparities between expectations and reality when putting new instruments to practice, not least due to the resistance shown by the academic staff. This post follows up on an earlier post on about the reform agenda that introduced of these processes.

Nigusse Weldemariam completed his master studies at University of Oslo in 2009. From before, he holds a bachelor degree in pedagogical sciences from Bahirdar university in Ethiopia. Currently, he is working as a lecturer at the Institute of Pedagogical Sciences in Mekelle University in Ethiopia. The institute provides pedagogical training to prospective high school teachers, university instructors and school principals.

Equating the universities with business corporate companies is becoming an emerging experience. That is, despite that universities are different from business corporate companies; there are experiences of transplanting the management principles of the business corporate companies to higher education institutions.

Mekelle University is amongst Ethiopian public universities that have reformed its management practices using the tools which were originally developed in the business corporate business companies. These tools include the BPR (Business Processes reengineering) and BSC (Balanced Score Card).

BPR is “a fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvement in critical contemporary measure of performance such as cost, quality, service and speed (Hammer & Champy, 1993, p. 32). The BSC is a management tool used to communicate, implement and describe organization’s strategy (Kaplan, 2010, p. 3). Both  tools have been developed in the business corporate companies in the 1980s. Therefore, the application of the tools in the university setting, which is different from the business corporate companies, scratches some theoretical and practical questions. Thus, one of the aims of the present post is to highlight these questions by reflecting on the experiences of the Mekelle University.




Thematic week: Communicating broadly – which social media channels?

Jarle V. Traavik (University of Oslo)

This entry is written by Jarle V. Traavik, who works as the head of finance at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Oslo and is a self proclaimed ‘social media guy’, managing social media at the faculty. Jarle is a UK Chartered Accountant and has over 20 years of experience in business and management with an interest on communication strategies. He has worked closely on a number of issues related to strategic planning at the faculty, in addition to participating to the university wide initiative “Task force on Social Media”. In this post, he reflects on portfolio challenges related to building up presence on social media. 

Social media is already an integral part of education. Not only is it a source of information in its own right, but it is also a reference mechanism, and a tool for facilitating learning. The “twitterverse” knows the news before it reaches mainstream media, many use social networks to seek advice or store links, and lecturers use these tools to query or advise students.

As a playground of choice for many prospective and existing students, social media is an ideal tool for communicating issues of interest in higher education. Journalists are also known to make use of Twitter for example, making it a potentially good channel to forward research findings to the wider community. Additionally, some staff also use social media actively for communicating with colleagues, and hint at social media as an alternative to e-mail or internal newsletters.

So the tools and the interest are there. We also know however, that resources at most education institutions are stretched. In many cases therefore schools or universities will need to maneuver for maximum output from minimum input.