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Nested Organizational Fields: Isomorphism and Differentiation among European Universities

The University Under Pressure

ISBN: 978-1-78560-831-5, eISBN: 978-1-78560-830-8

Publication date: 5 February 2016


European universities have changed dramatically over the last two to three decades. The two dominant frameworks to analyze these changes are “New Public Management” and the construction of “complete organizations.” Both of these approaches highlight isomorphic processes leading to increased homogenization within European universities. However, empirical evidence suggests that European universities are differentiating from each other at the same time as they are becoming more isomorphic. To explain the simultaneity of homogenization and differentiation among European universities, we use the concept of nested organizational fields. We distinguish between a global field, a European field, and several national, state, and regional fields. Homogenization and differentiation are then the result of similar or different field embeddedness of European universities. The advantage of this approach lies in explaining homogenization and differentiation of universities within individual countries on the one hand, as well as cross-national homogenization and differentiation of subgroups of universities on the other hand.




We are very grateful to the two editors, one anonymous reviewer, and Stefan Kirchner for their comments that have greatly improved the paper.


Hüther, O. and Krücken, G. (2016), "Nested Organizational Fields: Isomorphism and Differentiation among European Universities", The University Under Pressure (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 46), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 53-83.



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