We have been accepted to present our work in progress “Institutional Work and Organizational Transformation: A Case Study of a University Merger” at the 9th New Institutionalism Workshop in Warsaw. Higher Education is a mature and highly institutionalized field and organizations (universities) are strongly embedded in political and societal expectations and governed through a complex system of governmental regulative authorities and other intermediaries. Further, we aim at tracing the enabling conditions and mechanisms of an organizational transformation of a university in the context of a field-level institutional change towards marketization and managerialization of higher education. All these arguments reason to embed our research in the new institutionalist research community.
The presentation of our case of a radical university transformation met broad interest and some useful comments to further elaborate the paper have been collected. It was the sole research out of about 45 presentations dealing with higher education. Most papers presented have been strongly empirical and covering e.g. wine industry, gender equality, prison or sustainable architecture. Some of the papers seem to be too much phenomenon oriented and under-theorized. Some papers tackled theoretical considerations such as institutional change, institutional pluralism or the conceptualization of competition in the non-profit and public sector. Few presentations have been interesting, but did not clearly reveal features interesting for new institutionalist research.
Overall, it was worthy to take part at this workshop. An overview over current research efforts in the domain has been gained and we have been socializing.
This year’s annual VHB WK Organisation workshop was held at the historical Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena. Around 100 organization researchers and management scholars from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria gathered in the city, in which Wilhelm Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Schiller had their disputes on natural sciences and the humanities in the late 18th century. In this blog entry, I’ll report on two aspects from the overall program with its many great presentations, interesting talks and inspiring discussions.
First, in two podium discussions, the WK Organisation harshly criticized the (mis)use of rankings for tenure decisions and the allocation of ressources. Important rankings, such as the VHB journal ranking Jourqual, fail to meet scientific standards of validity and reliability. It was claimed, that the overall attempt to measure research activities does nothing but standardize thinking and thereby hinders the emergence of radical innovations – which is a core purpose of research activities. Besides, rankings are widely deemed unappropriate for a multidisciplinary field like organization research: they compare apples and oranges when multiple paradigms and methods are developed and applied to a variety of contexts and problems. The future will show, how the VHB reacts to these strong arguments and whether the discussion spreads to other commissions in similar vein.
Second, our article on a “micro-foundation of leadership, governance and management in universities” was well received. The shift away from the analysis of legal frameworks towards actual (or in our case: documented) governing behavior sheds light on how macro-orders of new public management translate into communicative relations between governing bodies on the micro-level. Leadership, governance and management forfeit their conflictary logics and form complementary patterns as they unfold in linguistic practices of agenda building, critical reflection, devising, and debriefing to bring forth organizational change. Both, the current political discussion as well as future research might benefit from the analysis.