Balancing countervailing processes at a Lithuanian university

Liudvika Leisyte (Center for Higher Education, Technische Universität Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany)
Mantas Vilkas (Faculty of Economics and Business, Kauno Technologijos Universitetas, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Egle Staniskiene (Faculty of Economics and Business, Kauno Technologijos Universitetas, Kaunas, Lithuania)
Daiva Zostautiene (Faculty of Economics and Business, Kauno Technologijos Universitetas, Kaunas, Lithuania)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Publication date: 10 July 2017



The purpose of this paper is to understand how the countervailing processes for enhancing academic excellence based on professional norms are balanced out with the market-oriented processes of standardisation and performance management in a university. Further, the authors aim to explore how and if organisational learning occurs in balancing these processes.


The longitudinal, inductive three-year study of a higher education institution in Lithuania was used to understand how a higher education institution based on the norms of academic excellence was balanced out with the market-oriented processes and what mechanisms of leaning took place during the process. The authors drew upon three data sources – archival materials, observation and interviews with academic staff and administrators – to capture the processes of rebalancing and learning.


A complex balance is observed between the strive for academic excellence and market relevance. Market relevance has been the dominant reform tone for the central administration of a Lithuanian university (LTU), while maintenance of academic excellence prevailed among academic staff. The LTU manages the countervailing processes by standardising, financialising, surveying and disciplining. The rebalancing resulted in dissent from the academic community. Organisational learning could be observed in the example of the introduction of a new examination procedure, while it could not occur during the process of new performance management system introduction. The process led to mutual distrust between the academic staff and the management of the LTU.


This study contributes to the literature on organisational learning in higher education, showing how an eager entrepreneurial university engages in the reform process and how it engages in the complex balancing of countervailing processes of academic excellence and market relevance. The authors contribute with empirical evidence on how rebalancing processes in a professional organisation works and what limitations it faces. The study shows the vital multi-stakeholder involvement and understanding of the process of change. The authors further contribute to the discussion on the adoption factors of performance-based systems and the process of institutionalisation using a longitudinal perspective as called for in previous research.



Leisyte, L., Vilkas, M., Staniskiene, E. and Zostautiene, D. (2017), "Balancing countervailing processes at a Lithuanian university", The Learning Organization, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 327-339.

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