Making sense of change in university governance

Changes in the University’s governance system, financial basis and organization signal that it is facing a transformative period. This paper proposes a perspective for understanding current changes in University governance as institutional collisions, where the University as a distinct institutional sphere is challenged by market and government.

ARENA Working Paper 02/2006 (pdf)

Åse Gornitzka & Johan P. Olsen

The University is currently involved in changes that might affect its institutional identity. At stake are the University’s purpose, organization and governance system, financial basis, work processes, and role in society. This paper proposes a perspective for understanding these transformations. The aim is to contribute to an improved comprehension of factors influencing the development of University organization and governance. The paper argues for seeing changes in University governance as part of larger transformations in the relationship between society’s institutions, where radical change of one institution is linked to changes in inter-institutional relationships, i.e. institutional collisions. The University as a distinct institutional sphere has through history collided with other institutional spheres. Current changes reflect the challenge of the market and a perspective that sees the University as an economic enterprise. The challenge also comes from government, as the University is seen as a tool for achieving government purposes. In practice, current shifts in formal legal autonomy of the University, in funding regimes, and governance instruments are not unidirectional. They represent partly overlapping, partly contrasting tendencies: the abdication of government to market and the repositioning of government through public sector reforms. There has been convergence in reform rhetoric, but less so in actual reforms, and impacts on core activities of the University are varied and uncertain.

Tags: institutions, governance, educational policy
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM