22 SES 05 D, Academic Work and Professional Development
This paper provides a critical analysis of three universities’ mission statements, values and strategies and suggest how these underlying priorities and strategies may impact on teaching within these research intensive institutions. It elaborates the investigation of, and initial analysis on, how four public universities in Europe and one in the US articulate their mission, values, and strategies (Solbrekke et al 2013). However, the focus here is narrowed to three institutions only (University of Oslo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University College Dublin). These niversities have been selected in a purposive manner on the basis of earlier analysis (Solbrekke et al., 2013); positioned along a continuum from ‘traditional’ to ‘entrepreneurial’. Further analysis of these universities’ strategic plans will enable us to focus particularly on how policy rhetorics talk about teaching and the student experience that can be expected.
Key questions to be addressed therefore are:
- How do these institutional strategic plans talk about teaching?
- What logics and rationales are these teaching priorities and strategies based in?
- What possible formative impact may the chosen strategies have on teaching within these institutions?
We bring a ‘formation’ perspective to the analysis. As research intensive universities grapple with global competitiveness, international league tables, internationalization, and a general tendency towards a reduction in public funding, and increasingly powerful demands to prepare students for ‘the world of work’, there is considerable risk that preparation for life, for citizenship, for service, for the public ‘good’ become marginalized (Gadamer, 1975/1989; Gardner, 2004, 2007, 2008; Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, & Damon, 2001). Considerable empirical work suggests moral aspects of formative experiences are being crowded out by increasing emphasis on specialization and expert knowledge. In such circumstances, we take the view that formation includes a sense of ‘moral compass’ and elite universities in particular have a particular responsibility to bring this more encompassing and less tangible dimensions of formation back in.
Against this general backdrop and intellectual stance, the key analytical terms deployed are ‘accountability’ and ‘professional responsibility’. The language and internal logics of each are summarized in table 1.
Table 1: The logics of professional responsibility and accountability
- based in professional mandate
- situated judgement
- moral rationale
- internal evaluation
- negotiated standards
- implicit language
- framed by professions
- relative autonomy and personally inescapable
- defined by current governance
- standardised by contract
- economic/legal rationale
- external auditing
- predetermined indicators
- transparent language
- framed by political goals
- compliance with employer’s/politicians’ decisions
(Adapted from Solbrekke & Englund, 2011, p. 855)
Through these analytical lens we interrogate the strategic plans of the three selected universities. Our particular focus is onstatements about teaching, its nature and substance and how these documents describes the ‘student experience’—their formation. Analysis of the text does not inform about what actually happens in practice, but these texts indicate the priorities and activities that are encouraged by the leaders of the institution.
Traditionally, research intensive universities have been granted considerable autonomy to define the goals and priorities. During the last 20-30 years, however, performing and fulfilling politically defined objectives has been promoted through NPM accountability regimes (Rinne, Jauhiainen, Koivula 2013). In Europe, quality assurance systems are deployed to determine “value for money” (Stensaker & Harvey 2011; Handal et al. in press). Consequently, some scholars (Solbrekke & Englund 2011) advocate for the classical research intensive university while others advocate the embrace of entrepreneurialism and close collaboration with the marketplace (Pinheiro & Stensaker 2013; Tomlinson 2012). In such circumstances, it is timely to ask: how universities (trans)form, and in what direction and in particular to interrogate the consequences of these competing and conflicting forces for teaching.
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