Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2005

Organizational Change in Higher Education Institutions

Lecturer: Professor V. Lynn Meek,
Centre for Higher Education Management and Policy,
University of New England, Australia

Main disciplines: Higher Education Studies, Sociology

Dates: 1 - 5 August 2005
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants

Participants: Albrecht Wolfgang Blümel, Pablo Carneiro Arija, Tito Correa, Ursula Elisabeth Fruebis, Vladislav Kovalev, Aliis Liin, Merle Pihlak, Chiara Porrovecchio, Asta Radzeviciene, Ruslan Ramanau, Sigrid Rand, Aljona Sandgren, Ernesto Tavoletti, Dijana Tiplic, Amélia Veiga, Monika Wallmon, Jannecke Wiers-Jenssen. Professor V. Lynn Meek, University of New England, Australia


The objective of the course is to provide an overview of organizational change in higher education Institutions. While the focus is on the higher education institution, the relationship between higher education institutions and the external environment is considered to be the key to understanding internal organizational dynamics. The external environment is itself turbulent, complex and changing. External influences include, on the one hand, the changing relationship between higher education and government, and, on the other, its place and function in the evolving knowledge society. Theoretically, the course adopts a rather eclectic approach to organizational change, though it identifies some of the main intellectual traditions in understanding organizational change and evaluates their current relevancy. Empirically, it draws upon data and case studies from a number of developed countries in various locations: Europe, North America and Australia.

The first part of the course will outline what has been considered to be some of the basic and enduring features of the higher education organizational form. If we are going to understand change in higher education, the first question to ask is "change from what". Are there essential characteristics belonging to the higher education institution, or has it always been relative to the time and place in which it exists? In order to help answer such questions, the course turns to some classical underpinning theoretical assumptions. Then change, particularly change brought about by new relationships with government and society, is examined in detail. Topics include the marketisation of higher education and the new managerialism. Resistance and the ability of academe to absorb change while retaining central values will be examined too, along with a closer examination of how the advent of the so-called knowledge society is driving change in higher education.

The course concludes with an examination of the role of academics in the change processes, both as receivers and initiators of change. As the saying goes - organizations do not act; people do. How has the academic profession coped with all the change happening around it; has it, as some have claimed, been 'de-professionalised"? The final lecture attempts to bring the various threads of the argument together and speculates on what might be future trends.

Basic Readings
All students are urged to obtain and read these books in advance of the course:

Lecture Outline and Corresponding Readings
The readings marked with * are included in the booklet the participants receive prior to the course.

Lecture 1
Introduction to the course and reflections on the evolution of the higher education organizational form: essentialism or relativism?

This lecture will present an overview of the main themes and structure of the course. It will then critically examine claims that higher education is a distinctive organizational form. There is much debate today about the transformation of higher education. However, in order to understand the degree and extent of current transformations, first we need to reflet upon what is being changed and whether a single unitary organizational form of the university ever existed. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Birnbaum from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 2
Understanding higher education organizational dynamics: theoretical perspectives.

There is a vast literature on organizational change and there is no way a one week course could do it justice. However, there a few theoretical traditions that have helped shape the analysis of higher education, particularly the university, as an organization or institution. This lecture reviews some of the classic theoretical frameworks shaping consideration of change within higher education and reflects on how relevant (if at all) they are for current debates on the transformation of higher education. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Birnbaum from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 3
Organizational change and Public Sector Reform - turbulence in the external environment.

The environment in which higher education institutions operate has become increasingly complex, competitive and turbulent. If there is any constant in the environment in which higher education institutions operate, then it is change. In particular, the relationship between higher education institutions and government has been substantially altered (if not fundamentally transformed) in many if not most jurisdictions. This session will examine some of the main external forces impacting on the internal operation of higher education institutions. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Kogan et al from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 4
Organizational change and the marketisation and corporatisaton of higher education.

In continuing the examination of the impact of an increasingly turbulent and sometimes hostile external environment on higher education, this lecture will look at the shift from state steering to market control of higher education and the resulting corproatisation of the higher education institution. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Kogan et al. from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 5
Organizational change and the managerialist revolution.

Probably the most obvious area where external pressures have transformed the internal structure and function of higher education is with respect to management. The old notion of university governance based on collegiality is a thing of the past, if it ever really exited, and some would go so far as to claim that New Public Management has colonised higher education. But there remains increasing tension within the higher education organization as to how it should be run and by whom. This lecture will look at how the management of higher education has changed in recent years and at some of the consequences. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Amaral et al. from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 6
The Hybrid University - the emergence of new organization forms in higher education?

As the governance of higher education institutions has shifted from the collegial to the managerial, there have been various claims about the development of a new type of university organization. It has been called the entrepreneurial university, the enterprise university, the multiversity, the stakeholder university, etc. However, many of the statements about the advent of a new type of university are more normative than empirical. This lecture will examine concepts supposedly underpinning the development of a new type of higher eduction organization and in so doing attempt to separate statements of what higher education should be from analysis of what is actually happening. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Clark from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 7
Continuity and Resistance to Organizational Change in Higher Education.

There can be little doubt that higher education institutions nearly everywhere have undergone considerable change in the last three to four decades. However, it is a mistake to assume that change has been linear, that it is the same in all jurisdictions, and that the institutions themselves have no capacity to resist or absorb change. This lecture will review some of the varied ways in which higher education institutions under different political, historical and cultural circumstances have coped with change. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Amaral et al. and Kogan et al. from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 8
Organizational change and the knowledge society.

At the base of most if not all of the change and turbulence in higher education is the development of the knowledge society and knowledge economy. Much of the pressure placed on higher education is not due to it irrelevance, but is a direct result of the fact that it is the key institution in the knowledge economy. Some believe that the knowledge society has or is about to 'outgrow' higher education. The evidence, as this lecture will explore, does not seem to support such a conclusion. In addition to the readings listed below, consult in particular Gibbons et al. from the list of basic readings.

Lecture 9
Academic organization and the organization of the academic profession.

People act, not organizations. In the end, in order to understand what is happening to higher education organizations we must ultimately analyses the impact of change on the people who belong to these institutions. How is change impinging on the normative and value frameworks of academic staff; is the impact the same for all academic staff in all institutions, or are there clear 'winners and losers'; is academe being radically transformed or merely following a consistent and predictable course of development? These are some of the questions to be covered in this session.

Lecture 10
Overview of theories and concepts of organizational change in higher education.

This final lecture will attempt to summarise the various trends and models of organizational change in higher education presented in previous lectures. It will examine the various trajectories of change and speculate on what the future might hold for the higher education organization - recognising, of course, that the future is unpredictable. There are no new references for this lecture, but students should consult all of the basic readings and review the other material presented so far.

Other recommended readings

The lecturer
Professor V. Lynn Meek is Director of the Centre for Higher Education Management and Policy at the University of New England. Having completed a PhD in the sociology of higher education at the University of Cambridge, he has nearly three decades experience researching higher education policy issues. Specific research interests include governance and management, research management, diversification of higher education institutions and systems, institutional amalgamations, organisational change, and comparative study of higher education systems. He also has a research interest in higher education quality assurance and contributed to the policy discussion that lead to the establishment of AQUA. ProfessorMeek is regularly invited to address international conferences, and is frequently invited to be a quest editor of international journals with respect to special issues on particular aspects of higher education policy. Professor Meek has published 26 books and monographs and numerous scholarly articles and book chapters. He has written articles on Higher Education and the State and the Sociology of Higher Education for Pergamon’s International Encyclopedia of Education and the International Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Education. He is on the editorial board of several international journals and book series, and has worked with such international agencies as UNESCO and the OECD. He is presently Deputy Chair of the University of New England’s Academic Board and Acting Head of the School of Professional Development and Leadership.

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