From the 6th-8th April 2016 Jetta Frost, Rick Vogel, Fabian Hattke, Jessica Petersen and me attended the 32nd Colloquium of the European Group for Organization Studies (EGOS) in Naples titled “Organizing in the Shadow of Power”.
Several manifestations and outcomes of “Power over modern universities” stood in the focus of our conference track. We were provided with interesting research on topics like stakeholder salience in academia, performance metrics or academic freedom. Our papers “Performance indicators in academic research: Do they improve performance?”, “How innovative are editors? Evidence across journals and disciplines”, and “Governance and leadership in universities: Taken-for-granted practices and hidden tactics” were presented by other higher education researchers and gained positive and constructive feedback.
On the whole it was an inspiring conference with interesting discussions. Aside from the conference the power of the sun brought us a hot time in a beautiful city. We are looking forward to next year’s EGOS colloquium in Copenhagen about “The Good Organization –Aspirations, Interventions, Struggles”.
In recent years, European universities have undergone many reorganizing efforts. Although differing from country to country, the dominant pattern is a centralization of activities and responsibilities (de Boer et al., 2005). Hitherto, higher education research mainly adresses this development from a governance perspective. This stream of research primarily analyses the scope of actions and formal responsibilities of different status and stakeholder groups in (de)central governing bodies (Mora, 2001). Although some organization-economic (Antonelli, 2007) and behavioristic (Cohen et al., 1972) studies exist, the governance perspective is primarily rooted in organization-sociology (Krücken, 2011). Centralization tendencies are discussed rather critical as they might endager the social function of universities (Birnbaum, 2004).
However, the governance point of view – with its focus on (formal) behavior control and allocation of decision rights – is only one among many theoretical frameworks to analyze organizations. Another prominent perspective is the resource or competence perspective (Noteboom, 2004; Williamson, 2000). It directs our attention to the generation of organization specific resources (Barney 1991) like organizational knowledge (Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Grant, 1996) or core competencies (Dierickx & Cool, 1989; Prahalad & Hamel, 1990). From a resource perspective, the pooling of activities may support the core activities of teaching and research. In the long run, a centralized creation of common resources might even enhance the institution’s reputation, attracting international students, better scholars, and higher funding. Like governance-focused research, the resource perspective also acknowledges the possible shortcomings of a centralization. They mainly arise from observability and measurement problems of knowledge-based activities (Leitner & Warden, 2004). Thus, there is no such thing as ‘the’ optimal degree of centralization. The pros and cons must be carefully considered and balanced. However, by focussing the development and sharing of organizational knowledge and competencies, resource based studies of universities may provide novel and fruitful insights for the debate on which activities to centralize and which to delegate.
Our current study on University Commons develops a resource perspective for higher education institutions. It might supplement previous arguments made from a governance perspective. We’ll keep you posted..
Here are the abstracts for this weeks workshop “Organization Turn in Higher Education Research”. Well, not exactly the full 15 pages.. It’s a wordcloud to give you an idea of the presentations at a glance. It’s pretty obvious that measurement issues are of high interest in the current discourse on organizing universities.
Next week, on June 14th & 15th, our workshop on organization studies in higher education takes place at Hamburg University. We are proud to announce that we have received premium submissions of well-known researchers from the field of higher education research and management science (see program here). In addition to the daily schedule, the RePort project and the Center for a Sustainable University host a fireside chat on thursday evening. The presidents of Hamburg University and Leuphana University Lüneburg, Prof. Dr. Dieter Lenzen and Prof. Dr. Sascha Spoun, will discuss recent developments and upcoming challanges for university leadership and management with the participants of the workshop.
We are very excited to share and develop our ideas within such a community and we wish all external participants a safe trip to Hamburg!!! See you on Thursday!