22 SES 05 B, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
The Flemish government used the Bologna Process as a window of opportunity to implement thorough changes in the higher education system. From the academic year 2004-2005 onwards, the two-cycle structure of bachelor and master programmes became obligatory. Consecutive regional legislation further defined the framework for more flexible education pathways for students, for a more efficient and effective quality assurance system, more (international) student mobility, and a modernised funding system. Ten years onwards, the question arises what the actual effects of the policy changes have been and whether these effects are still in line with the initial goals of the Bologna Process. Therefore, three interconnected research questions can be formulated. First, to what extent have the goals of the Bologna process yielded the desired policy effects, given their translation in national policies and institutional practices? Second, how big is the gap between the desired outcomes and the achieved results? Third, which factors can explain the observations?
This paper wants to reflect on the achievements of the Flemish higher education reforms under impulse of the Bologna declaration. On a high level it is clear that Belgium in general and Flanders in particular have implemented most goals Bologna defined (Dittrich, Luwel, Frederiks: 2004), e.g. Flanders has introduced easily readable and comparable degrees in the bachelor-master-doctorate structure and has implemented a new quality assurance system.
However, there can be a difference between reforming in accordance with general goals and reforming in such a way that policy goals are actually met. It is clear that European goals can only be reached through national implementation, which is also based on national issues and identified problems. Furthermore, national legislation leaves room for higher education institutions to implement the educational policy and this too can flaw intended outcomes.
The question is to what extent this three-step-process leads to results on the lowest level (i.e. actual effects) that are still in accordance with the expectations on the highest level (i.e. the Bologna process)?
The theoretical framework we use is based, first, on Pettigrews change model (Pettigrew 1987; 1992) which identifies three dimensions in strategic change: content, process, and context. The content focuses on the ‘what’: what objective, purpose or goal needs to be achieved? The process clarifies how procedures and methods have been implemented to achieve the goals. The context makes clear why a certain process has taken place, taken into account internal (strategy, structure, culture, management and political processes of the organization) and external (political, economic en societal) contextual factors. Applied on Bologna, it is clear what the goals of Bologna were, but the way it has been implemented has been influenced by European, national and institutional factors (the context). As a result, the desired outcome by Europe shows gaps with the achieved results in Flanders.
Second, the discrepancies we expect will be explained by framing the research results in organizational theories that help explain why intended goals or policies do not necessarily lead to the desired results. Resource dependency theory and neo-institutional theory are complimentary theories (Maassen & Gornitzka 1999; Gornitzka & Maassen 2006) allowing an explanation of (a lack of) change both in structural terms and in cultural terms. Hence, we will identify gaps between policy goals and achieved results in the context of the Bologna implementation in Flanders by referring to both the availability of resources at different policy levels and the conformity of European goals with the norms and values underlying higher education policy in Flanders.
Dittrich, K., Luwel, M. & Frederiks, M. (2004) 'The implementation of Bologna in Flanders and the Netherlands', European Journal of Education, vol. 39, 2, september 2004, pp 299-316). Gornitzka, A. & P. Maassen (2006), Europese universiteiten tussen markt en overheid, pp. 99-117 in De Wit, K., L. Dom, C. Gijselinckx, J. Peeraer & K. Stassen (eds.), Onderwijs en Samenleving. Thema’s in het werk van J.C. Verhoeven. Leuven: Acco. Maassen, P & A. Gornitzka (1999), Integrating Two Theoretical Perspectives on Organisational Adaptation, in Jongbloed, B., P. Maassen & G. Neave (eds.), From the Eye of the Storm: Higher Education’s Changing Institution. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Pettigrew, A.M. (1987). Context and action in the transformation of the firm. Journal of Management Studies. Volume 24, Issue 6, pages 649–670 Pettigrew, A.M., Ferlie, E. & Mc-Kee, L. (1992). Shaping Strategic Change, Making Change in Large Organizations. The case of the National Health Service. London: Sage Trends reports: http://www.eua.be/eua-work-and-policy-area/building-the-european-higher-education-area/trends-in-european-higher-education.aspx
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