This study aims to analyse the impacts of an institutional change process on a specific higher education institution in Europe and the trade-offs between the faculty…
This study aims to analyse the impacts of an institutional change process on a specific higher education institution in Europe and the trade-offs between the faculty perceptions of success and the organization image during this process, in light of the identity institutional theory.
The impacts of this institutional change are analysed and discussed based on in-depth interviews conducted with faculty members of the accounting department in which they reflected upon academic success vis-a-vis the career assessment system adopted, followed up by those faculty members’ answering an electronic questionnaire about organizational identity and image perception (Gioia et al., 2000).
Considering the individual perspectives, faculty are concerned about their vocations and aspirations, with feelings of apprehension and insecurity, perceiving the institutional goals as too high and potentially unattainable. By shifting the priority towards research, costs in terms of losing the institutional excellence in teaching might arise, which has been traditionally keen to the institute’s organizational identity and consistent with faculty’s perceptions of academic success.
As in any research endeavour, some limitations might emerge. First, the authors addressed the context of a specific business school, in a European country. It is certainly true that culture plays a role in terms of both organizational and national levels. The authors acknowledge this as a limitation. Nevertheless, this research takes a “local” stance, the logic of academic evaluation and its impacts on institutional and individual identity formation processes is a worldwide phenomenon. Second, in defining the authors’ selection criteria, the authors excluded the possibility of other voices to be heard, both in the department itself and in the business school. Regarding the department, the authors argue that those are the ones who could influence future decisions, considering that they are the only ones eligible for the governing bodies under the institute’s regulations. Regarding the business school, adding other department(s) means adding other discipline(s) to the authors’ analysis with specific and different dynamics of researching, publishing and teaching, which also impacts the expectations regarding career and academic success.
First, before beginning an institutional change process, it is necessary to assess the vocations and aspirations of its members. The solution requires to reanalyse academic career premises and to reconsider the weights given to each academic activity, or furthermore, to offer more than one career path, so as to make it flexible for each faculty to follow their vocations and aspirations or to adapt to life demands. Second, in terms of organizational identity and image, the challenge is to minimize the gap between the construed external image and the internal identity, striving to achieve a balance between teaching, research, outreach and service.
Because of the nature of the academic work, the authors propose that the application of the theory should be preceded by a careful consideration of what is academic success. The misalignments studied and reported here reveal a multilevel phenomenon, wherein individual academic identities are often in conflict with the institutional image. The authors’ study entails a contribution to the application of the identity institutional theory to academic institutions.