Academic Institutions in Search of Quality: Local Orders and Global Standards

See on Scoop.itDual impact of research; towards the impactelligent university


Quality judgements in terms of academic standards of excellence required by external stakeholders such as labour markets and steering hierarchies obviously exert strong pressure on universities. Do they generate an ‘iron cage’ effect, imposing a passive and uniform conformity on global standards? The paper examines the organization of higher education and research set-ups with a strong lens. What does academic quality actually mean when observed in the field? How do universities and their subunits – professional schools, colleges, etc. – actually achieve what they call quality? A methodological and analytical framework is tested. Three sociological concepts – diversity, recognition and local order – make it possible to build four ideal types applicable to comparative inquiry. Such a typology identifies the interdependencies existing between how they position themselves with respect to quality dimensions and internal organizational measures. The paper contributes to a broader organizational study agenda: how do local orders face and deal with market and hierarchy dynamics in a global world of apparently increasing standardization under pressure from soft power. It questions the effect of the ‘iron cage’ hypothesis. It lists a series of changing patterns or dynamics between types of universities in terms of quality sensitivity, fabrication and content. Diversity and standardization in fact coexist.


The authors:

“universities, their colleges, professional schools, research centres and educational departments all have to consider, willingly or not, a logic of quality in which publications matter as much if not more than education, for generating resources – money, buildings, equipment, academics, students, etc. Ex post performance, and not ex ante reputation, pushes them to play the role of proactive operators. Reputation-based rents and community service do not suffice.”



Academic Institutions in Search of Quality: Local Orders and Global Standards Catherine ParadeiseUniversité Paris Est/Institut Francilien Recherche, Innovation, Sociétés, FranceJean-Claude ThoenigCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Paris-Dauphine, France
doi: 10.1177/0170840612473550Organization Studies February 2013vol. 34 no. 2 189-218
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About Wilfred Mijnhardt
RMIMR is my virtual playground, a place to reflect on issues from my professional context, my job as Policy Director at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). RSM is the international university based business school at Erasmus University Rotterdam. More info here: Here is my list of relevant publications on the topic of my RMIMR weblog: The rss feed for my RMIMR collection is here: Here is my other weblog on impact of research:

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