Based on the annual EFMD meetings on higher education studies, Andrew Pettigrew, Eric Cornuel, and Ulrich Hommel issued an edited volume on “The Institutional Development of Business Schools” at OUP. The book features a chapter of our work on governing logics in universities, in which we assess organizational change from a communication constitutes organization (CCO) perspective. The book provides novel empirical findings on the change and development of business schools in particular and universities more generally. The book also offers a stimulating critique of some of the intellectual, professional and economic challenges facing business schools in the contemporary world.
The Network for Science Management (Netzwerk Wissenschaftsmanagement) invited us to participate in their annual meeting which took place in Munich last week. The network aims to support the professionalization of administration through regular exchange of ideas and experiences and has, thus, a strong practical focus. Together with Isabel Welpe, Jutta Wollersheim, and Stefanie Ringelhan from the Chair of Strategy and Organization at TU Munich, I was invited to talk about the governance of academic cooperation from a scholarly standpoint.
The research group from Munich held an impressive talk about quantitative assessments of research productivity and possible performance paradoxes, the differing intensity of collaboration between PhD students of economics and among PhD students of management, and the possibilities of new forms of collaboration (e.g. crowd research), publication (e.g. open peer review and open access) and scholarly communication (e.g. web 2.0 applications). If I might say so, their research looks very interesting and especially their new ventures promise relevant insights.
After their talk, I presented the results of two studies which are currently under review for publication (fingers crossed). The studies approach the emerging actorhood of universities from a governance- and a resource-perspective. As already reported earlier, governance reforms in the early 2000s have strenthened managerial mechanisms and delegated decision-competencies to the upper echelons of universities, the president, vice-presidents, and chancellors. So we asked ourselves, whether the composition of this “top management team” has any influence on how successful the university is in acquiring competitive funding for large collaborative projects? The results suggest that socio-demographic diversity of decision-makers has positive effects on performance in that regard. The second study investigates the increasing professionalization of administration in specialized central support units. Results indicate that performance is not always enhanced by these developments. In some cases, voluntary collective action seems to be more important than support from such units. However, we’re currently gathering additional data and running further tests on our models, so the final results may be more rubust and provide further clarity.
There was broad consensus about the implications of the first study. Some were reminded of Niklas Luhmann who stated that complexity can only be reduced by complexity – a nice thought, indeed. The results of the second study were, not surprisingly, seen a little bit more controversial. I’m grateful for this opportunity to discuss our research with practitioners in the field (many thanks to Dr. Brauns from the Thuringian Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture).
As our IndiKon project proceeds, it splits up into several sub-projects, one of which is concerned with the hidden drivers of journal rankings. Such rankings are increasingly important elements of performance management systems in higher education. We are now in the midst of gathering data on the composition of editorial boards, and we are truly amazed by the great variety of different roles, functions and bodies in the editorial governance of journals. Here is a selection (making no claim to be exhaustive):
Area Editor, Associate Editor, Associate Editor Board, Associate Editor ex officio, Associate Editor for Reviews, Board of Professionals, Book Review Board, Book Review Editor, Co-Editor, Consulting Editor, Contributing Editor, Coordinating Editor, Copy Editor, Cross-National Studies Editor, Department Editor, Deputy Editor, Editor, Editor Elect, Editor Emeritus, Editor-at-Large, Editorial Advisor, Editorial Advisory Board, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Board, Editorial Coordinator, Editorial Manager, Editorial Review Board, Editor-in-Chief, Editor-in-Chief Elect, Executive Board, Executive Director, Executive Editor, Executive Editorial Board, Feature Editor, Former Editor, Former Editor-in-Chief, Founding Editor, General Editor, Graphics Editor, Honorary Editor, Incubator, Joint Editor, Managing Editor, Managing Editor Emeritus, Manuscript Editor, Past Editor, Past Editor-in-Chief, Point-Counterpoint Editor, Policy Board, Product Editor, Production Coordinator, Production Editor, Production Manager, Regional Assistant Editors, Regional Editor, Reviewing Editor, Section Editor, Senior Advisory Board, Senior Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Special Adviser, Special Editor, Special Projects Manager, Subject Area Associate Editor, Technical Editor, Web Editor.
The IndiKon project aims to contribute to one of the most urging topics in the organization of science and higher education: how to conceptualize, ascertain, assess, and, ultimately, measure academic performance? The question gains more and more importance since universities around the globe increasingly apply performance management systems in order to allocate their scarce resources more effectively. At this year’s annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Herman Aguinis, Elena Antonacopoulou, and Debra Shapiro had a panel discussion in which they argued for a pluralistic approach to academic performance (see this article).
The widespread practice to confine scholarly impact to publications in peer-refered journals is a problem, indeed. Since inadequate performance management systems may cause counterproductive academic behavior and, consequently, attentuate scientific innovation, the design of such systems has to be grounded in thourough reasoning based on empirical evidence. We seek to provide some insights in that regard. During the next 3 years, we’ll try to develop novel qualitative and quantitative indicators for scientific innovation and assess possible cognitive and behavioral effects resulting from the deployment of performance management systems in organizations of higher education.
I’ve attended the inaugural conference of the World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research (WINIR) entitled with “Institutions that change the world” (September 11-14, 2014, London).
Indeed, the participants were an interdisciplinary group; however the major part were evolutionary/institutional economists. General facilities and provisions were rather poor – given the 270£ conference fee. The conference was spread over 3 days, but one could only listen to 4 slots of presentations (each slot organized as 8 parallel sessions), since there were 5 key notes. Unfortunately, I have chosen sessions, which did not meet my expectations. The session The Social Institutions of Social Science connected to recent attempts of assessing the institutionalization of scientific fields. However, the methods – e.g. counting journals – employed could be expanded by more sophisticated bibliometric analyses but also qualitative accounts such as studying conferences.
I have presented my working paper “Dynamic Stagnation” in a session to Institutional Change. The key idea of the paper is as follows:
Developed economies tend to face declining growth rates and stagnation. While stagnation would be rather associated with saturation and institutional stability, there is evidence for increasing dynamics and pressures for the marketization and economization of social spheres (e.g. the restructuring higher education systems according to market principles or the retrenchment of welfare systems). This constellation of institutional change (economization) and stagnation is causally linked and labeled as dynamic stagnation. It is explained by modeling the paradoxical operating mode of a capitalist economy (growth paradox): declining effective demand constitutes an inherent stagnation tendency (growth brake), but only growth allows avoiding increasing inequalities (growth imperative). Institutional change towards the marketization of social spheres previously organized outside the market is a reflex of attempts to maintain capitalism during low growth rates and stagnation. This type of institutional change then is less a product of economic growth, but of insufficient growth (dynamic stagnation).
This macro perspective contributes to the explanation of institutional change of the (German) higher education system. Today, higher education institutions are increasingly constructed as actors, competing for students, staff, and funding. They are not only considered for New Public management and strategic management in order to achieve efficiency and competitive advantages; they are turned into “quasi-economic organizations” (Teixeira & Dill, 2011: xvi) stimulating innovation and growth through knowledge commercialization and job market oriented training. This idea is manifested in university models such as the entrepreneurial university, the triple helix, or the third generation university to name only few of an inflationary discourse on new university models.
As you might have noticed, our blog has become somewhat quiet recently. But the hot summer is not the (only) reason.. During the past weeks, we’ve been busy crafting our papers for this year’s EGOS conference.
As you’ll know from your own experience, the title of a short paper may change significantly when it is developed towards a full paper. The story gets a new twist, is enlarged or further condensed, theoretical constructs may change, and conceptual frameworks are specified. And sometimes empirical observations just won’t tell the story you’ve expected in the first place..
So here’s the list of our short and full paper titles:
Short: Organizational responses to evaluations, rankings and performance indicators – Evidence from French and German universities. Full: Organizational Responses to Institutional Complexity – Evidence from French and German Universities.
Short: How Rankings Impede Scientific Progress. Full: What Makes Journals Highly Ranked? A Bibliometric Analysis of Management and Organization Studies.
Short: University commons: An empirical analysis of collective resources in German universities. Full: Organizing Collective Action? An Empirical Analysis of Common Goods in German Universities.
Our research on university goverance has led to another publication: Blaschke, Frost & Hattke: “Towards a micro foundation of leadership, governance, and management in universities”. In the article, we adress the gap between governance research on the institutional level and research on a behavioral level. The Communication as Constitutive of Organization (CCO) – perspective leads the way. See the article online first.
On February 21st and 22nd Katrin Obermeit, Fabian Hattke, Ferdinand Wenzlaff, Johan Bronstein and myself attended the 16th Workshop for Higher Education Management at the Univesity of the Arts in Bremen.
The audience got an impression about a wide range of research on topics concerning the management of higher education institutions. The lectures dealt with philosophical-analytical topics, such as the presentation of Stefan Heinemann,who sensitized the audience for the importance of a systematic reflection on ethical questions in higher education management, conceptual works, such as the presentation of Johan Bronstein and Ferdinand Wenzlaff, who showed the audience how Literature dealing with strategic management of universities can be systemized, political problems, such as the presentation of Walter Dörhage, who presented problems that emerge out of the growing social structural heterogeneity and diversity of students, and empirical issues, such as the presentation of Fabian Hattke, who showed that the diversity of top management teams in german universities influences the chance to succeed in the “Exzellence Initiative”.
Katrin Obermeit presented her mental models of study choice. Katrin won the best paper award and can supply her colleagues at the University of Lüneburg with high-quality coffee and cacao in the next weeks. Congratulations Katrin!
On the whole it was a really inspiring workshop with a lot of interesting and fruitful discussions. We’re looking forward to the next workshop!
Let’s take a closer look at the scholars behind the publications. For that purpose, I’ve inverted the network from the last post . Now, vertices represent authors and a tie indicates a journal, in which both authors have published. The ties are stronger if both authors wrote several articles for the same journals. The size of a node represents the number of articles in our database from that particular author.
Again, we can identify our four clusters:1) Upper left: sociological studies 2) Upper right: organization and management studies 3) Lower left: research on higher education management and 4) Lower right: studies on technology transfer and science communication.
Now, a high betweenness centrality of an author indicates boundary spanning research by contributing to journals in different discourses. The authors with the highest betweenness are: 1 Cynthia Hardy (1350), 2 Loet Leydesdorff (723), 3 Ase Gornitzka (643), 4 Georg Krücken (627) and 5 Karl Weick (610). If an author has a high degree centrality (i.e. the node has many direct ties) he or she is well connected in terms of journal diversity. In contrast to the betweenness measure, diversity in this case most likely refers to journal diversity within a certain discourse. The top five authors according to degree centrality are: 1 Barbara Sporn (27), 2 Royston Greenwood (26), 3 Georg Krücken (24), 4 Dennis Gioia (22), 5 Christopher Hinnings (22).
Of course, the shown results are limited in terms of generalizability. The measures reflect only a part of the authors’ works and should not be interpreted as an indicator for performance. Besides, the network is only based on 68.6% (more like 40%, since I’ve removed quite some isolates) of all the publications that happend to find their way into our database, which, obviously, is pre-selected by subjective preferences for specific theories, contexts, and methods. However, the networks provide useful information about the foundations of our work at a glance. I wonder how the actual collaboration network looks like..
Over the past three years, we have gathered and sighted literature related to higher education governance and the organization of knowledge work. Now, it is time to open the black box and take a look into a good part of the research that our work is based on. In the RePort project, we’ve used Mendeley as a collaborative tool, which helped us to consolidate publications from the Leuphana and Hamburg teams.
Almost 1,400 authors contributed to 930 studies (avg. 1.5 authors per publication). The most common form of publication is journal articles (68.6%), followed by chapters in edited volumes (14.5%). Monographs (7.2%), working papers (4.8%), project reports (1.8%), dissertations (1.7%), and conference proceedings (1.4%) are of less importance.
The figure displays a network of related journals in our database. The journals are shown as nodes (the size depends on the number of articles in the respective journal). The authors are displayed as ties between the nodes. Two journals are connected if one author contributed an article to both journals. The tie strength indicates if more than one author has published in both journals. The resulting network displays denser clusters of stronger interrelated journals and structural holes with no author connecting the journals. We identify four clusters (three large and one small) in the network. They can be interpreted as outlets for four distinct groups of scholars.
1) Upper right: studies on technology transfer and science communication.
2) Upper left: research on higher education management.
3) Lower right: organization and management studies.
4) Lower left: sociological studies.
The most important journals in terms of betweenness centrality (i.e. the number of shortest paths from all nodes to all others that pass through that node) are: Academy of Management Review (401), Higher Education (327), Research Policy (227). These journals attract scholars from different discourses.
Note that the network only covers a small part of the database, since it only contains journal publications. Besides, a threshold was set for 2 authors. Journals with only one author contributing an article to another journal in the database or journals without a connecting author at all (“isolates”) were eliminated for better visualization.
Our joint projects are represented at this years EGOS conference in Rotterdam. Here’s a short summary of our activities:
Alfred Kieser is chairing a track together with Lars Engwall and Richard Whitley on “Universities in Unsettled Times: Effects of Evaluations, Accreditations and Rankings” (see this post for the cfp).
A research collaboration that started at last years EURAM conference has led to first results. Markus, Ferdinand and myself are co-authoring a paper from Anne Riviere and Marie Boitier (both Toulouse Business School) entitled: “Organizational responses to evaluations, rankings and performance indicators – evidence from French and German Universities”.
Rick and Alfred will evaluate “How rankings impede scientific progress” – a major concern of both, scientists and policy makers.
Together with Jetta and Steffen, I’ll elaborate our theoretical reasoning on university commons by using empirical data: “Universities commons: An empirical analysis of collective resources in German universities”.
Last but not least, Markus and Ferdinand will present their paper “From institutional contradictions to organizational transformation: The case of a university merger” in Sub-theme 23: Public Sector Reforms and Organizational Responses: Comparing Universities and Hospitals.
So, plenty of opportunities to meet, discuss, work, laugh & chat @ Rotterdam! Hope to see you there.
Our research “Institutional Change of the German Higher Education System: From Professional Dominance to Managed Education” (Markus Reihlen & Ferdinand Wenzlaff) has been published as a book chapter in the Handbook on the Entrepreneurial University (Edward Elgar), edited by Alain Fayolle and Dana Redford.
Markus and Ferdinand will present their paper: “From Institutional Contradictions to Organizational Transformation: The Case of a University Merger” at the 10th New Institutionalism Workshop in Rome, March 2014.
A first outcome of our effort to develop a resource-perspective for higher education institutions got published in a special issue, edited by the commission “higher education management” in the German association of business and management professors. You can find the abstracts of the special issue here.
As announced earlier, we have organized a track entitled “Universities as Democratised Organisations: Bringing Organisation Research Back to University Governance” at the 13th EURAM Annual conference in Istanbul, with the conference theme “Democratising Management”. Click here for the program of our track. EURAM is one of the biggest conferences in Management and Organization Studies. Besides the circumstances in Istanbul, which some people might have convinced to cancel their coming, other tracks lacked of commitment participating the sessions. However, we faced a continuous attendance of nearly the whole group allowing intense exchange and to develop a community. Overall, the track has been a great success because of interesting presentations and discussions. And here is a small wordcloud of the submitted papers to give you an impression what Track 61 at EURAM was about..
In the first keynote speech Jordi Canals reported his concern that recently managers recommended young people not to go to university but just to start businesses and to learn through practice. Besides the critique of business schools within society, this is another signal alarming the questioning of the role of business schools. However, Canals argues that business schools can have a positive impact on society. Business Schools have to show good governance, which is expected to spillover on social institutions. While the speaker’s views and proposals are sound, he did not go beyond a rather undifferentiated defense of business schools and neglected other potential problems.
In the discussion of the keynote address a main argument guiding throughout the conference and getting much agreement emerged: the critique of the peer review system inhibiting to improve the impact of (management) research on society. It was criticized, that the peer review system is self-referential and does not concern for practical problems. Scholars are caught within the system, being evaluated and hired according to publication success, even if they are interested in more practical research. This dilemma for scholars and the schools has been labeled the rigor versus relevance mantra (Birnik & Billsberry, 2008). Taking a system theory perspective, we have to be skeptical with attempts aiming at a reconciliation of research and practice. As Kieser and Leiner (2009) summarize their analysis of the rigor-relevance gap:
“social systems are self-referential or autopoietic, which means that communication elements of one system, such as science, cannot be authentically integrated into communication of other systems, such as the system of a business organization. Social systems can only irritate – provoke – each other, i.e. alter conditions in such a way that other systems are forced to respond. Because of the differences between management science and practice it is impossible to assess relevance of research output within the system of science. […] Researchers and practitioners cannot collaboratively produce research, they can only irritate each other. However, sometimes irritations or provocations turn out inspiring.”
Hence, we have to be skeptical about conceptions such as the mode2 of knowledge production or the triple helix model of the university.
Charles McMillan in his presentation argued that the task of business schools is to prepare students for wicked problems (in contrast to conventional problems). This is challenging as paradoxically in order to solve unstructured and complex problems both specialists and generalists are needed. However, in order to escape narrow focus of business schools and their curricula, the focus on publishing had to be reduced and academics with practitioner knowledge should be recruited. Further, preparing students to tackle the wicked of our time can hardly be reached by focusing rigor, but by learning from other disciplines and conducting interdisciplinary research, as argued by Volker Rundshagen in his presentation.In another plenary session, Andrew Pettigrew gave some critical thoughts about the present and future of business schools. For example, he sees a danger for the teaching stuff becoming a professional proletariat. He depicted to institutional problems and calls for further research on institutional change of the higher education system and how to avoid the institutional traps.
Richard Straub in his plenary speech went so far claiming that management research doesn´t get its share in funding compared to other disciplines such as economics. When the speaker and others demand more relevant research for the business community one might respond that this could be financed through course fees and private enterprise partnerships. Hence, Peter Lorange (2012) is proposing the model of a “network-based” school, promising financial support as well as increase of relevance by importing expertise and latest knowledge. However, Volker Rundshagen in his presentation reminded the pitfall if management education is mainly aiming at income generation (for schools as well as students). By dissolving boundaries between business schools and private enterprises conflicts of interest arise because social and academic missions are adversely impacted.
Presenters and discussants further ascertained that MBA programs are often just copied leading to an Americanization of European business schools. It has been proposed that European business schools should go their own way building on the European heritage and serving European problems.
Birnik, A. and Billsberry, J. 2008. Reorienting the Business School Agenda: The Case for
Relevance, Rigor, and Righteousness. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(4): 985-999.
Kieser, A. and Leiner, L. (2009) Why the Rigour–Relevance Gap in Management Research is Unbridgeable. Journal of Management Studies, 46: 516–533.
Lorange, P. (2012) The business school of the future: the network-based business model. Journal of Management Development, Vol. 31(4): 424 – 430.
Polanyi, M. 1962. The republic of science: its political and economic theory. Minerva, 38(1): 1-21.
The European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) organized the second Higher Education Research Conference with the theme “Purpose, Performance and Impact of Higher Education Institutions and Business Schools”. The conference was hosted by Université Paris Dauphine on 23th and 24th of may. Like in the last year, the conference has been primarily concerned with business schools but gave space for more general topics of higher education research.
For the public, the corporate world is falling apart in ethical terms, with “each new scandal pointing to new levels of selfishness, greed and dishonesty in business” (Swanson & Frederick, 2003: 24, taken from the presentation of Volker Rundshagen). Consequentially, business schools are criticized and face problems of legitimacy in society.
In her critical plenary speech, Ellen Hazelkorn among other thoughts addresses the question of measuring “research quality” by assessing its practical relevance. Summarizing the conference, one major common belief is that the peer review system fails to generate and measure the relevance of (management) research. Hence, the “social trustee model”, where academics themselves define standards of research and teaching – Polanyi’s “Republic of Science” (1962) – is heavily attacked. The conventional mode of knowledge production within the academic community is challenged by new modes, more strongly interacting with the business world, governments and other social actors. Who is criticizing the trustee model must be aware of existing suggestions as well the potential pitfalls. Further conferences could address the problem of calling for more practical relevance more in depth and thereby more extensively reflect the developments in higher education and the impact of higher education as well as business schools. However, it has to be remembered that participants of the conference mainly come from business schools and that it has to be acknowledged that reflective critique from inside is rather a recent phenomenon.
Our research “Institutional Work and Organizational Transformation: A Case Study of a University Merger” presented by Ferdinand Wenzlaff was of particular interest. The community did not so much respond to our institutionalist theoretical framework and suggested transformational practices. But mergers of higher education institutions are a very relevant practical topic. Since there was another interesting comparative study of eight merger cases in Europe (by Boris Walbaum and Heye Scheftel) and participants interested in mergers, many practical questions have been asked. The discussion revealed, that mergers in higher education are an important growing research field as for Europe many mergers due to cost efficiency or strategic considerations are expected.
Die Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung (GfHf) hat auf ihrer Jahrestagung eine Paneldiskussion über Zukunftsthemen der Hochschulforschung veranstaltet. Schon seit einer Weile sieht die GfHf eine stärkere theoretische Fundierung, eine Ausweitung des Methodenspektrums, die bessere Integration verschiedener disziplinärer Ansätze und die internationale Vergleichbarkeit von Forschungsergebnissen auf der Agenda der deutschen Hochschulforschung.
Obwohl alle Panelteilnehmer/innen die Hochschulforschung als ein multi-disziplinäres Feld sehen wurde in der Diskussionsrunde der Versuch unternommen, konkrete inhaltliche Forschungstrends zu skizzieren. Anbei eine kurze Charakterisierung der Themengebiete, basierend auf dem Diskussionsprotokoll:
- Theorie- und Methoden-Integration, insbesondere organisationstheoretische Erkenntnisse und Methoden der Wissenschaftsfoschung (bspw. Bibliometrie und/oder Netzwerkanalysen)
- University Governance, insbesondere das Verhältnis Staat-Hochschule und rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen, sowie interne Ressourcenallokationsprozesse, Steuerungsmechanismen und Qualitätskontrollen (Rankings, Peer Reviews, etc.)
- Bildungs- und Kompetenzforschung, insbesondere gesellschaftliche Auswirkungen der fortschreitenden Akademisierung, Kompetenzentwicklung und -beurteilung, sowie lebenslanges Lernen und Online Teaching / Learning
- Karriere- und Nachwuchsforschung, insbesondere Mobilitätsstudien
- Internationale Vergleiche und Politikberatung, insbesondere Panelstudien
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..