Odysseus project 'Higher Education Governance'

The overall aim of the research (supported by a five-year FWO Odysseus grant) is to increase our scholarly understanding of Governance in Higher Education. This understanding will improve through in-depth, theory-based investigations of aspects of governance, but practical aspects (improving policy and institutional practice) will be addressed as well. The aim should be understood in the context of higher education being a field of study, qualified as an a-theoretical community of practice. Much has been learnt through the largely a-theoretical approaches, but much can and should be done to connect the field of higher education better to the appropriate disciplines. The governance theme lends itself easily for connections with (organizational) sociology, political sciences, public administration and business administration.

There are two forms of governance of interest in the proposed research programme: system governance and institutional governance. System governance is to be understood as the process of authoritative direction and control at the higher education system level. Through deeming eyes, one can see a development in many countries of “less state and more market” and of multi-actor governance. The key questions on this theme are: how have governance arrangements changed over time in (European) higher education systems and why? What are the impacts of these changes? And, what would be effective governance arrangements?

The concept of institutional governance alludes to elements of internal decision-making within higher education institutions’ governance bodies, like senates and councils, executive management and boards as well as to broader issues like strategy development, institutional responses to global and local challenges, organizational change processes, and institutional positioning, and identity-formation. Key questions are: how do higher education institutions strategise and position themselves? How do higher education institutions legitimate their choices and actions? What are the impacts of institutional governance arrangements on academic performance?

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