22 SES 12 C, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
This paper focuses on ’formation’ in higher education. In the international context of competitiveness, internationalization, ‘entrepreneurialism’ in ‘research intensive’ environments, how do universities conceptualise ‘formation’ and how are such images communicated on institutional websites and in strategic plans? This paper is an exploratory analysis of such re-presentations in five highly ranked universities.
Governments and stakeholders increasingly measure institutions’ capacity to stimulate economic growth and meet the needs of knowledge societies in a climate of financial crisis (Stensaker & Harvey 2011). Institutions must be ‘marketed’ to students and external stakeholders to secure financing, increasingly from the private sector whose purses respond to ‘ranking’ criteria (see www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/). An international market has been generated for students, funding academic staff, overlaid with performance indicators, quality reviews and performance-based funding (Tremblay, K., Lalancette, D. & Roseveareet, D. (2013). Does such international competitiveness further civic engagement or contribute to the formation of a new ‘creative class’ that lives in ‘neighbourless neighbourhoods’, preoccupied with themselves where they ‘bowl alone’!? (Florida, 2002, 2005; Putnam, 2000). How do selected institutions re-present or ‘market’ and ‘brand’ themselves in such climates and contexts and is it possible to predict the impact of such formulations on programmes and their content as well as staff and student experiences?
This paper will provide a critical analysis of how this is done in a purposive sample of five Universities, four European, and one US. The theoretical framework deployed is summarised in table 1 where the logic of responsibility regards a moral dimension as essential to formation, while the logic of accountability marches to the beat of NPM. However, we see these logics (and languages) as creating tensions, sometimes incompatible, while part of the purpose of the analysis is to establish how institutions respond to, reject or otherwise deal with these competing world views as a framing of formation.
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)
Universities are increasingly challenged to address such competing logics, while our interest is in describing and analysing how these inevitable tensions influence formation scripts. Thus our research questions are:
- How do four public universities in Europe and one in the US articulate (on their websites, and in their strategic plans) their goals, values, and moral framework for the formation of their institutions, programmes, employees and students?
- When the five institutions are compared, what values are highlighted, included or excluded?
- How might these expressed values influence the values and behaviors of each institution’s graduates? Faculty? Administrators?
Alvesson, M. and Skölberg, K. (2000). Reflexive Methodology. New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications. Colby, A. & Sullivan, W,M. (2008) Formation of Professionalism and Purpose: Perspective from the Preparation for the Professions Program: University of St. Thomas Law Journal 5 U. St. Thomas L.J. 404 -427. Retrieved December 28 2012, http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/usthomlj5&div=22&g_sent=1&collection=journals Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books. Florida, R. (2005). The Flight of the Creative Class. New York: HarperCollins. Stensaker, B. (2004). The Transformation of Organisational Identities. Interpretations of policies concerning the quality of teaching and learning in Norwegian higher education. Doctoral dissertation, Universiteit Twente, The Netherlands. Stensaker, B. & Harvey, L. (2011). Accountability in Higher Education: Global Perspectives on Trust and Power, Abingdon, New York, Routledge Solbrekke, T.D. & Englund, T. (2011). Bringing Professional Responsibility Back In. Studies in Higher Education, 36(7), 847-861.
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