Comparative Perspectives on Universities: Volume 19


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Based on data from a two-year, multi-site study of knowledge production in universities, this paper examines how research training is accomplished within the elite sector of research universities in the United States. This analysis suggests substantial differences across institutional settings by contrasting how graduate students learn academic labor in a high prestige, private research university and in a public doctoral-granting institution with fewer resources. Prevailing conceptions of professional socialization are examined in light of not only disciplinary differences, such as physics and history, but also by local campus settings which are characterized by unequal financial and status resources. Such institutional differences in knowledge production raise further concerns about structurally caused accumulated advantage and disadvantage, particularly the effects of stratification on individuals as well as possible dysfunctions within the academic system.

This chapter analyzes the behavior of early adopters of innovations and followers in the Dutch university sector from 1974–1993. The innovations we concentrate on are (comparable) new study programs. We formulate contrasting expectations bearing on institutional and strategic choice theory concerning the consequences for early adopters versus followers. From an institutional perspective we predict that followers are less successful measured in terms of the quality of the program, the enrollments, and fundamental changes in the program (including closing down the program). Seven chains of innovations (in total 35 new programs) are analyzed. This analysis points out that the behavior of the adopters can be seen as a combination of both strategic choice and institutional adjustment.

The possibility—and potential pitfalls—of an “Americanization” of European higher education are widely discussed. This paper argues that it is important to base comparisons and considerations of possible emulation on a stronger understanding of the specificity of American higher education. It stresses the importance of seeing this as a system with highly differentiated institutions and complex contextual relations. The present paper also summarizes dramatic changes that have transformed American higher education in recent years, and others that are beginning to transform it further. This shows the system to be internally dynamic and also influenced by important external conditions (including matters of finance, public policy, and new technology). The U.S. system is only understood well if analysis locates specific patterns in relation to these structural transformations. Such specificity should inform future comparative research.

In this paper an approach for studying organizational change in higher education is presented. Two theoretical perspectives on organizational change are outlined. First, a resource dependence perspective emphasising that organizational change must be understood by looking at how organizations perceive their environments. How do organizations act to control and avoid dependencies in order to maintain organizational discretion and autonomy of action? A (sociological) neo-institutional framework for studying change in higher education organizations emphasizes the cognitive and normative elements in the environment. When organizations change according to institutionalized expectations, they do so in a context of taken for granted norms and beliefs. Both perspectives represent valuable analytical frameworks that can be combined fruitfully. In addition the article focuses on one major environmental actor for higher education, the state. How do government policies and programs influence organizational change processes? With reference to both resource dependence theory and neo-institutional perspective relevant aspects of policymaking as well as characteristics of the content of policies and programs are presented. It is argued that there is a need for seeing interaction of the government with universities and colleges as located in an overall system of state steering of higher education. Four state (or governance) models have been discussed grasping different approaches to national policymaking, steering, and governance of higher education in Europe and the way these affect change processes in universities and colleges.

This analysis of higher education reform in England, Norway, and Sweden is based on a dynamic regime approach. I make the argument that variations in policy can be explained in terms of characteristics of policy regimes defined as the network of actors and patterns of influence that are particular to a policy area or an entire polity. I define policy content as policy design operationalized as a set of characteristics of the policy instruments that are deployed. The paper first outlines and analyzes the policy design of recent higher education reforms by focusing on the choice of policy instruments. Then it turns to the regime characteristics of higher education policy and develops the concepts that are used for the analysis of regime changes. I discuss both the roles of the main actors, including central government agencies, local institutions, elites, and interest groups and the relationship between the actors. Finally, follows a discussion of processes of change within dynamic policy regimes and the main empirical analyses of regime changes and emerging policies under the current policy regimes. The paper concludes that the relationship between policy regime and policy design manifested itself as different policy styles. The English policy style was revolutionary, the Norwegian incremental, whereas the Swedish was adversarial.

This chapter (based on the results of a large research project that was finished in 1997) focuses on the relation between governmental steering activities and the occurrence of innovations in university curricula. Curricula are one means through which universities disseminate their knowledge and their expertise to others in society. Other actors in the higher education system, like professional organizations, employers, and (national) governments, have a great interest in this dissemination function of university curricula. Three propositions specify the expected relations between different types of governmental steering and the curriculum innovativeness of a university system. A comparative research design is used to test these expectations, including the Netherlands, France, Pennsylvania (USA) and England, and two periods of time (the late 1970s and the late 1980s). Two specific curriculum innovations are selected: the introduction of a new undergraduate degree program and the introduction of a new specialization (or major) within an existing undergraduate program. Besides a quantitative count of the number of innovations that occurred, a limited number of innovations is studied in more detail through interviews with key actors. The analysis of the empirical findings leads to interesting conclusions. I present some alternative explanations that might explain the unexpected findings.

During the last decade Finnish universities have been obliged to respond to changing socioeconomic pressures. In the welfare state period, the university policy emphasized social and regional equality and democratization. The universities were expected to contribute to the common good. But from the end of the 1980s, the goals of the welfare state have been complemented or substituted by the neo-liberal ideals that rely on the logic of market forces. This has meant new social values and roles for the universities. The universities are pushed to specify their areas of expertise and compete for both public and private resources. These pressures stem from national technology and innovation policies as well as from the policies of the European Union. In this chapter we explore these two periods of change from the aspect of the universities. Because the universities differ in size, disciplinary composition and background they also experience the pressures differently. We take a close look at three leading Finnish universities during these two periods and their responses to the almost opposite pressures of welfare state ideology and neo-liberalism.

Places of Inquiry identifies basic conditions and trends in modern systems of higher education that link or dissociate research, teaching, and student learning (“study”). The book is structured in two major parts. Part I, “Distinctive National Configurations of Advanced Education and Research Organization”, in five chapters organized by country, contrasts the national arrangements of the basic elements in the five major nations of Germany, Britain, France, United States, and Japan. These chapters give play to historical determination of national peculiarities and unique arrangements. Chapter 1 particularly highlights the preeminent role played in the construction of the modern research university by nineteenthcentury developments in the German system. Emerging disciplinarians learned by trial and error to use the laboratory and the seminar in a framework of university institutes. In “the institute university”, the academic research group was born, with Humboldtian thought serving as a useful covering ideology.Chapter 2 portrays English universities, in contrast, to be focused historically on elite preparation of undergraduates—a “thin stream of excellence”—in the small worlds of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Here, in this model, against the grain of the structure, research-centered academics learned to use the apprenticeship model for a very limited number of “research students” who were supported for advanced study toward a late-developing Ph.D. “The collegiate university” has been very different from the German configuration.Chapter 3 presents the highly unusual historical arrangements in the French setting where the universities became in effect the party of the third part, caught between the elite nature of the grandes ecoles and the domination in research of a nonuniversity research establishment. An outside set of research institutes has provided the main research base, and university research-oriented activities had to be brought into alignment with it. The genetic imprints of the system, in contrast to both the German and the British, have been one of subordination of the university, with much broad structural separation of research activity from university teaching and the university education of students. A picture of historic subordination is also found in the case of Japan (Chapter 5), where much displacement to industry has taken place. Students graduating from first-degree study have been snapped up by industry and offered better opportunity, including in research, than what the university could offer. Advanced education at universities became severely constrained. In Japanese terms, Japanese graduate schools, although formally modeled after the American structure, became “empty show windows.”The chapter on the United States traces the development of a highly competitive system of higher education in which a graduate level, separately organized within universities from undergraduate programs, provided a broad foundation for small-group laboratories and seminars in which research activity could be a means of teaching and a mode of study. Peculiar American conditions of weak secondary schooling and generous admission to higher education left much general or liberal education to be accomplished in the undergraduate years, preempting specialization. Emerging disciplinarians tried repeatedly in the mid- and late-nineteenth century to build their new research interests into the undergraduate realm. It did not work. The emergent solution was a vertical one, to add a formal graduate school on top, with its arms in the graduate programs of the departments making it “the home of science.”This major internal differentiation, in comparison to the other four major international models, made the American university a “graduate department university,” with extensive provision developing in the last half of the twentieth century for research-based teaching and learning. What the German system had been able to do on a small scale in the nineteenth century, in the context of elite higher education, the American system developed systematically the capacity to do on a much larger scale, in the context of mass higher education on the road to universal higher education.Part II of the volume, entitled “The Research-Teaching-Study Nexus,” offers a conceptual framework for understanding how modern systems of higher education do or do not effectively bring research into alignment with advanced university teaching and advanced student training. The concept of a research-teaching-study nexus serves as leitmotiv. In Chapter 6, devoted to “forces of fragmentation,” adverse conditions for this nexus are largely subsumed under the twin concepts of research drift and teaching drift, with certain interests of government and industry strengthening inherent tendencies, already stimulated by mass enrollments and great growth in knowledge, for research on the one side and teaching and learning on the other to drift apart.But the nexus survives, often with great resilience and strength, and, in Chapter 7, the central part of the conceptual analysis takes the form of an explanation of how a modern integration is most strongly effected. Supporting conditions and processes are identified at three levels: whole national system, where differentiation, decentralization, and competition serve as broad enabling elements; the individual university, where diversified funding and deliberate organization of advanced education play an increasingly large determining role; and the basic unit (departmental) level within universities, where the activities of research, teaching, and study are located. At the base, operational conditions are captured in the twin concepts of research group and teaching group, each dependent on the other and closely intertwined in a veritable double helix of linkage and interaction. These twin settings for professors and students permit the linked transmission of tacit and tangible knowledge.As both the tacit and the tangible components of specialized knowledge bulk ever larger, they cannot be suitably conveyed by undergraduate or first-degree teaching programs alone, or by historic mentor-apprentice relationships alone. The research-teaching-study nexus is increasingly enacted by operational units of universities that bring together an advanced teaching program and the learning-by-doing of research activity. In this organizational nexus we find the heart of the graduate school phenomenon.The concluding chapter (Chapter 8) goes beyond analysis of the research-teaching-study nexus by offering three broad conclusions for the understanding of modern higher education: first, that inquiry remains the central activity, the dynamic element, in the university complex; second, that complexity and contradiction in university activities are inevitable and will continue to grow, ruling out simple solutions to long-term problems and placing a premium on how individual universities go about organizing themselves; and third, that research and teaching have an “essential compatibility.” Research activity itself is a compelling and rich basis for teaching and learning, primarily in graduate education in the arts and sciences but also secondarily in both advanced professional education and undergraduate or pre-advanced education. The much-voiced view that research and teaching are incompatible is short-sighted and regressive. The incompatibility thesis should give way to a more fundamental understanding in which research activity is seen both as a compelling form of teaching and as a necessary method of learning.For all modern and modernizing systems of higher education, the book emphasizes the great importance of organizing master's and especially doctoral work so that the activities of specialized research groups interact with structured teaching programs.In sum: Places of Inquiry concentrates on graduate (advanced) education, a level of higher education that has been rarely studied. It depicts distinctive configurations of academic research and advanced training in the five major national systems of higher education of the late twentieth century. It highlights research activity as a basic for teaching and learning. And it identifies generic conditions that pull research, teaching, and study apart from each other, and conversely and most important, focuses attention on the structures and processes that work to keep these central university activities closely linked.

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Comparative Social Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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