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. (more…)

Welcome New Higher Education Master Students

higher-educationThis week, we welcomed the newest group of master students to the University of Oslo, who will be starting their studies at the Hedda Higher Education Master Programme.

As always, we are delighted to welcome a wonderful group of new students. This year we have a highly diverse set of students, both in educational and regional backgrounds. The students come from over 15 different countries on 4 different continents, including our first student from Switzerland. This diversity will provide a unique learning environment for the students.

We also had the chance to chat with a few of the new students during the information meeting this week. We asked them about their expectations for the programme, how they heard about the programme and what they are most excited about.


Hedda student Isabell Alhosainy

Isabell Alhosainy from Norway is excited about meeting new people and learning more about the field of Higher Education, especially Higher Education and Development.

After being away from studying for the last 5 year, Isabell is anxious about getting back into the academic environment but she is definitely up for the challenge! (more…)

Call for papers: Institutional Design Futures – Higher Education

cordThe Center for Organization Research and Design (CORD) at the College of Public Programs in Arizona State University is organizing a conference: Institutional Design Futures: Higher Education. 

The conference will take place at the Scottsdale Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 9-10, 2015.

The following call for papers has been issued: Issues of organizational theory and institutional design begin to transcend the boundary between theory and practice as the Obama administration continues its push to create a new college rating system. The stated ambition of making access to public resources contingent upon institutional performance raises a host of important considerations for the future of higher education. As new organizational forms emerge in the realm of higher education and new public policies aim to protect public investments therein, questions rise relative to the attributes of organizations that promote and stifle public value.

Conference topics include: Institutional setting and “Dimensional publicness” in higher education; public, private and for-profit sector differences in higher education and public value assessments of university performance, the evolution and future designs of universities. (more…)

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. (more…)

Introducing: Hedda monthly literature tips!

Photo: Nathan Williams

Photo: Nathan Williams

We are delighted to share with you the news of our new monthly series. In this series we ask higher education scholars – both junior and senior – on some recent interesting literature they have read that they would like to share with you.

These tips can be about journal articles, book chapters or whole books, some of these can be recent, some of them can be classics that perhaps should be highlighted again.

What will make them different from other more traditional book reviews is that they are focused on both old and new literature the contributors would like to highlight, not only recent publications. We really want to focus on the literature that has stood out for all the right reasons. Of course, these reasons can be both conceptual or empirical or something completely different. What we hope is that the book or article gave some new exciting insights. Our only criteria for the reviews is that it has to be brief and say something about (a) the content of the book or article; and (b) why this was interesting.

We hope that this can be of relevance both to Hedda students who are learning to navigate in the world of higher education, our alumni who work with higher education, and anyone else with an interest in the field.

Our first reviews will be coming up already on Monday – so be sure to check back here!

If you read something really interesting lately that you would just love to share by contributing to this series, please do take contact, we would love to hear from you!