Andrew G. Traveller
In a globalised, knowledge-intensive society, in which higher education (HE) is seen as inextricably linked to economic and social progress, how the university is conceived, and indeed valued, has come into focus. This thesis traces the trajectory of the resultant policies that imply a more integrated university actor.
This thesis is therefore primarily concerned with the university and its transformation, focussing on university integration in Slovenia. While this topic is salient in the region, there is a dearth of literature addressing it. Given the absence of foundations on which to build, the thesis provides a high-level overview of the topic, which goes some way towards mapping the terrain.
There are two main research aims: 1) to extend and deepen theoretical understandings of policy trajectories related to university integration. This includes seeking to understand systemic influences, national policies and their rationales and formation; 2) to produce detailed, critical and contextualised accounts of the interpretations and enactments of policies of integration in two universities in Slovenia. This thesis is therefore about how universities ‘do’ policy (Ball et al., 2012); how policies become ‘live’ and get enacted (or not) within universities.
In order to “bring together structural, macro-level analysis of educational systems and educational policies and micro level investigations, especially those which take account of people’s perceptions and experiences” (Ozga, 1990, p. 359), the following sub-questions are posed:
a) What are the rationales underlying university integration, and policies thereof?
b) What are the formal/legislative/systemic/policy changes that have occurred due to/as part of HE reforms in Slovenia regarding university integration?
c) How are policies to integrate the university interpreted and enacted by institutional actors given the resources available to them?
d) How do socio-cultural, historical and contextual factors affect the ways in which universities interpret and enact a policy of integration?
To account for a complex and multi-layered change to the university institution, its organisation and its degree of integration, multiple analytical perspectives are required. Indeed, as Ball (1993, p. 10) asserts: “The complexity and scope of policy analysis – from an interest in the workings of the state to a concern with contexts of practice and the distributional outcomes of policy – preclude the possibility of successful single-theory explanations”.
Therefore, this thesis addresses the topic of university integration through a policy trajectory approach (Ball, 1993). This allows for the analysis to progress through interrelated vantage points encompassing policy formation, interpretation and enactment, in other words, a “cross-sectional rather than a single level analysis by tracing policy formulation, struggle and response from within the state itself through to the various recipients of policy” (Ball, 2000, p. 1839).
However, it must be stated upfront that it is not possible to capture the totality of contingencies, modes of organisation, and institutional cultures that exist. Indeed, Goodrick & Reay (2011) point out that organisations are not merely subjected to one or two dominant institutional logics, but institutional fields are characterised by a ‘constellation of logics’. At the risk of stereotyping, this paper will nevertheless strive to provide a narrative of the dominant policy trajectories that can be perceived in Slovenia in recent years related to integration.
In order to understand the topic more fully, some context is first needed. Krücken, Blümel & Kloke (2013) have outlined three levels of analysis, which are useful for framing the issue; namely: the macro level of society, the level of HE governance (i.e. system level), and at the university level itself.
At the macro level, much has been written over the last few decades about the changing relationship between society, the economy and the perceived importance of knowledge and knowledge production for the prosperity of nations. In the post-industrial world, a strong narrative has emerged; that of the ‘knowledge-based economy’ (KBE) (Bell, 1973; Jessop, 2008; OECD, 1996), according to which knowledge replaces capital as the dominant factor driving production, growth and competition (Castells, 2000). In such a world, knowledge, skills and human capital make up the engine that drives economic, social and cultural development (OECD, 1996).
This changing relationship between knowledge, society and the economy raises the question as to where the university fits in this new world order, as other organisations encroach upon it’s hegemony over knowledge production (Bastedo, 2012). How the university is conceived, and indeed valued, has therefore come under scrutiny. Consequently, increasing conceptualisations of the university come to bear: from the university as the pursuer of truth and the champion of knowledge and its dissemination (Thorens, 1996); to a student-centred view in which the transformational potential of HE is emphasised (Olds & Robertson, 2014); to an instrumental view of the university to fulfil social, political and economic interests (Nussbaum, 2010; Shapiro, 2005).
Overall, an instrumental logic of the university has become particularly prominent. Not only does the KBE narrative contribute to its legitimacy, but compelling changes have also occurred resulting in a closer relationship and the increased importance of HE in society; namely, the essential training of human capital, increased enrolments involving large segments of the population, the growing costs to both governments and families, and the perceived economic importance of HE, particularly in times of economic crisis (Altbach, 1999). Importantly, this instrumentalisation also includes inherent demands for greater social justice (Ramirez, 2006). Moreover, these phenomena are becoming discursively accentuated by governments, scholars and international organisations at the possible expense of intrinsic values (Galevski, 2013; Nussbaum, 2010; Zgaga, 2011).
Viewed in total, universities now operate in an increasingly complex world in which multifarious demands are being placed on them to satisfy their expanding roles. Thus the notion of the ‘multiversity’ has emerged (Kerr, 1995); an institution with a broad, and often conflicting, array of missions.
This complex operating environment has opened the door to a more market-oriented and managerial rhetoric as a means to cope with this complexity (Ramirez, 2006). Indeed, at the systemic level, New Public Management (NPM) has emerged in Europe as a policy ideology to deal with these new macro pressures. Broadly, NPM refers to government policies that seek to modernise and render more effective the public sector through a market-oriented approach (Hood, 1991).
This constitutes a momentous change from a dominant state to dominant market model (Neave & van Vught, 1991), which includes new modes of inter-organisational governing relations (Amaral, Jones & Karseth, 2002). “While the state is withdrawing to a more supervisory role via ‘steering at a distance’, universities have been granted substantial leeway with regard to institutional autonomy” (Krücken et al, 2009, p. 1).
Specifically, NPM reforms have resulted in: the introduction of new degree systems; increasing enrolments; reforming curricula to meet to the needs of the labour market; including an emphasis on transferable skills; diversifying institutional forms, missions, funding bases; changing the mode of knowledge production towards transdisciplinarity and cooperation; increasing competitive behaviour not only within but also between national systems (Nokkala, 2007); as well as the creation of stronger leadership structures, and systems for institutional evaluation and accreditation through the establishment of quality assurance agencies across the continent “in order to turn the institutions into dynamic, entrepreneurial, high quality enterprises” (Bleiklie, 2005, p. 32).
Such policies are evident in the European policy space in what is described as the Europe of Knowledge (Corbett, 2005; Vukasović, 2013), the main pillars of which are the intergovernmental Bologna Process and the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy (and its successor, the Europe 2020 Strategy). Although non-binding, these two agendas - through a combination of policy activity (Colebatch, 2002), texts (Ball et al., 2012), and entrepreneurship (Corbett, 2003) – provide a strong normative influence on national policy makers (Czarniawska-Joerges & Sevón, 2005; Zgaga, 2013) and imbue HE and universities with new logics and identities in line with dominant neo-liberal trends (Jessop, 2008).
Accordingly, such policy trends have had ramifications for universities; the third level of analysis. Indeed, “organizations are open to the influence of the legal system, to what other similar organizations do, and to the discourse generated by professionals on how best to function as an organization” (Ramirez & Christensen, 2013, p. 696). As such, the European policy discourse confers a new notion to the university, which is assumed to be a ‘complete’ actor with strengthened organisational capacities (de Boer et al., 2007; EUA, 2005). The Europe of Knowledge policy agenda combined with related NPM reforms at the national level imply an organisational actor that is capable of engaging in the emerged HE market (Marginson, 2006) and accountable for their increased responsibilities as authority and roles are reshuffled across different levels of the HE system (de Boer et al., 2007).
In sum, this has inspired a different kind of thinking about the university as an organization. Consequently, attempts have been made to reimagine and reconstruct the university as a strategic organisational actor (de Boer et al, 2007, Krücken & Meier, 2006; Nokkala, 2007, Brunsson & Sahlin-Andersson, 2000), an “integrated, goal-oriented entity that deliberately chooses its own actions and that can thus be held responsible for what is does” (Krücken & Meier 2006, p. 241).
Specifically, the thesis focuses on the element of integration inherent in this new conception of the university. But what is organisational/university integration? At the most fundamental level, definitions of integration assume two main points: that a single, complex system exists; and that the composite components can be optimally mixed to form an integral, and thus more effective, whole. It is assumed that these composite components - networks, structures, cultures and practices - can be transformed - the constituent parts combined to form an ‘integral whole’ - in a variety of ways. Thus, no one model of integration exists. Rather, how universities do integration is highly contingent upon context.
The author distinguishes between horizontal and vertical features of university integration. The horizontal feature relates to cultural and material practices that are specialised, or what Bernstein (1999, p. 159) describes as “segmentally organised”. For example, administrative functions (e.g. HR and finance) can be conceptualised along a horizontal axis, the specialist knowledge pertaining to these functions being “segmentally differentiated”. The same applies to academic tribes and territories (Becher & Trowler, 2001) (e.g. between history and biotechnology), modes of knowledge production (Gibbons et al., 1994), as well as to the roles of organisations within a wider organisational field or innovation ecosystem (Freeman, 1987; Lundvall, 1992) (e.g. between universities, research institutes, industrial firms, etc.). Horizontal integration is therefore about reducing such fragmentation and increasing cooperation and interdependent relationships between specialist groups of actors within the university and between the university and external organisational actors.
The vertical axis relates to material and cultural practices that form a “coherent, explicit, and systematically principled structure, hierarchically organised, or series of specialised modus operandi” (Bernstein, 1999, p. 159). For universities, this refers to: firstly, the strategic alignment, again of both the internal members and of the university within the wider organisational field; and secondly, in order to achieve this strategic alignment, a new kind of rationalised institutional governance arrangement is needed, reshaping historical power relationships in what can be described as a more ‘managed’ organisation (Clark, 1998; Clarke & Newman, 1994; Deem, 1998).
In summary, one witnesses a major shift in both the institution and organisation of the university, and the consequent emergence of a more integrated model. Indeed, the waves of democratisation and marketization have given rise to an increasingly socially embedded university (Shapiro, 2005); the core elements of which are broad inclusiveness, social usefulness, and organizational flexibility (Ramirez, 2006). Concurrently, system level trends, especially NPM, have resulted in a more rational and ‘managed’ university (Deem, 1998). Thus, integration has become a transnational trend in a global educational environment (Ramirez & Christensen, 2013).
In order to more tangibly comprehend the diffusion of these predominantly European trends, this thesis focuses on a national case; that of Slovenia.
Slovenia has not been immune from changes in its European environment. Consequently, since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Slovenia has sought greater university integration. Many of these attempts to transform university governance have occurred at the second level of analysis, i.e. the system level. Indeed, the emerged neo-liberal policy environment established autonomous, legally-integrated universities.
Moreover, the Slovenian policy agenda continues to imply a more strategic and integrated university actor. Concretely, two key texts form the current policy basis for Slovenian HE; the HE Act (which has undergone a series of amendments since 1993) and the National Higher Education Programme 2011-2020 (NHEP). NHEP is particularly explicit in setting out a strategy that aims to integrate the university, proposing actions such as: more block grants for universities plus a new developmental part of funding; independent management of tangible assets by universities, autonomous preparation of study programmes, academic standards, selection of staff and students; autonomous management and financial decision-making; and a new career system, allowing universities’ greater freedom for career development (OECD, 2012).
However, the new, normative notion of the university as an integrated entity is particularly challenging for countries whose historical legacies significantly differ in terms of both how the university is imagined and organised. As Ramirez & Chirstensen (2013) put it, different ‘roots’ result in different ‘routes’. Slovenia is a case in point. The traditional institutional structure of Slovenian universities consists of powerful, legally autonomous faculties under the symbolic umbrella of public universities, rather than as complete legal, organisational or sociological entities. This regional idiosyncrasy resulted in weak institutional integration and a significant variance in funding and quality among these entities (Zgaga, 1996; Huisman & Vrečko, 2003).
Compounding this tension between transnational influences and the Slovenian legacy is the fact that the implementation at the level of the university of such systemic changes involves not only those from inherently different backgrounds and paradigms, but also who have little say in the re-design of HE systems (Bergan, 2012). Thus, while universities have sought to adapt to the new environment, a dichotomy has emerged between international norms and local identities (Zgaga, 2013). As such, the integration of universities has been fraught with challenges in Slovenia and across the Western Balkans.
Furthermore, in Slovenia and at the level of the university, the situation regarding how integration has been interpreted and enacted by universities is unclear. Indeed, while it is evident that the aforementioned systemic changes towards integration have occurred, there is a dearth of literature as to how this notion of a unified university has manifested itself ‘on the ground’.
The empirical part of the thesis aims to determine how university actors in Slovenia have interpreted and enacted policies of integration. Indeed, as Bleiklie & Kogan (2007, p. 480) remark, “one cannot necessarily deduce actual practices in specific instances from general trends or ideals in policy documents”.
In terms of methodology, figure 1 straightforwardly represents the research design, incorporating the previous section’s outline of the systemic and policy contexts.
Figure 1: Research Design
An embedded case study methodology seemed most appropriate given it is difficult to separate variables related to university integration. Also, given the limited timeframe for the production of the thesis, it was imperative to define a bounded system, in which multiple sources of rich information could be accessed. Therefore, two cases were chosen for study, - the University of Ljubljana (UL) and the University of Maribor (UM) - the intention being that multiple cases would provide a broader and nationally-diverse picture.
This kind of research design also allows for flexibility in terms of data collection and analysis, integrating an array of data from different sources (Yin, 2011). Within the context of this thesis, this means a diverse sample of documents and interviewees from various units from the three institutions. The following three sources were utilised for the collection of data:
This data was then triangulated, integrated and used to address the research questions.
A conceptual framework was employed to frame the collection of data. Indeed, the multitude of variables related to university integration needed to be operationalised for the pragmatic execution of research and the collection of data (Dooley, 1984). A conceptual framework helped focus the empirical investigations, creating some boundaries within the vast amount of possible data sets and raising salient questions (Creswell, 2003).
An existing framework by de Boer et al. (2007) provided a useful, well-theorised basis on which to structure the research. The authors focus on the (re)construction of identity, hierarchy and rationality (Brunsson & Sahlin-Andersson, 2000) to systematically analyse various aspects related to the transformation of the university towards a corporate actor. The framework provides constructs, dimensions and detailed indicators. However, generalised, Western-theorised concepts to a foreign context were not universally applicable. Accordingly, a number of the specific dimensions and indicators were slightly re-conceptualised, and a modified version was utilised to guide the empirical investigation.
The interview data consists of thirteen interviews. The interviews, which took approximately one hour, were semi-structured. This means that the conceptual framework formed the basic structure of the interview but specific questions and content were not pre-determined. Instead, the author attempted to reflexively guide the interviews based on the knowledge and characteristics of the interviewee. Thus, most questions were open-ended. They aimed to explore interviewees’ perceptions of and reactions to university integration (and policies thereof), as well as to collect concrete examples of material practices; i.e. interpretations and enactments.
The study also includes content analysis of a rich collection of documents produced by the case institutions, public bodies and third parties. In total, 29 documents were analysed. Examples include university visions and missions, strategic plans, internal and external evaluations, university statutes, work programmes, organisational charts, policy statements, project reports, presentations, web content, etc.
The research also draws upon data from other studies, most heavily on a regional study conducted by the Centre for Educational Policy Studies at UL (Zgaga et al., 2013).
Through careful, structured sampling design, the study aims to provide data which is balanced, reliable and valid. The author therefore took steps to ensure that the sample represents a broad cross-section of institutions, interviewees, roles, and perspectives. Specifically, the institutions were chosen to represent different sizes and types of public institutions; the oldest, biggest, capital-city, ‘flagship’ university (UL) as well as a ‘newer’, smaller one in Slovenia’s second largest city (UM). Together they represent almost two-thirds of the Slovenian HE sector. Regarding interviewees, consideration was given to distinctions between academic groups within the university. Two major categories were identified. The first is the vertical distinction between the level of seniority and responsibility of academic staff (Teichler, 2012) and the second is a horizontal distinction between disciplines and types of knowledge production (Leisyte et al., 2009; Gibbons et al., 1994). Moreover, one member of the student council and two administrative/professional staff members were also interviewed.
According to the content analysis, there were different ways in which university integration was interpreted. Indeed, dichotomies were apparent both between and within universities as to how integration was defined, from where it should be initiated, and how to achieve it. This is most clearly evidenced by contrasting data from the university level with the faculty level.
At the level of the university, UM demonstrated a more determined attempt by the rectorate to integrate, with a myriad of well-designed and aligned strategic documents, an assertive rectorate, a number of new, university-wide organisational units, and overall a more structured approach stemming from the central administration. On the other hand, UL evidenced a rather more democratic, ad-hoc, yet not altogether ineffective, approach. It has taken what is described as a ‘functional’ approach to integration, in which selected, isolated functions are linked for the sake of expediency. In practice, this means that integration initiatives, such a joint programmes, are initiated at the level of the member (faculty) or confined to specific ‘functions’ of the university; most notably, there is a strong quality management drive. However, the central administration does not play a prominent role and these functions tend not to be integrated in terms of organisational structure.
At the faculty level, there appears to be a disconnect between what is declared at the university level and the subjective interpretations of university integration by individuals. In other words, the interpretation of policies of integration by members or individual actors did not always align with the official university rhetoric. Indeed, it is probably not possible to totally reconcile these dichotomies. As one interviewee put it: “whose responsibility is it to develop shared identity? I would say the top. The top would say ‘bottom-up’” (Interview 6; 7/4/2014).
Such definitions and approaches to university integration do not happen in a vacuum. External influences impact the way in which universities do policy. According to the content analysis, several prominent themes emerged: namely, accreditation, internationalisation, rankings, the financial crisis, and the legislative and systemic environment. These provide both opportunities and constraints for university integration, the common theme being that such influences required increased strategic action from both faculties and the rectorate.
Internal factors also influence how universities do policies of integration. In this regard, a number of internal dynamics were identified that shaped interpretation. Firstly, the author warns of the folly of solutionism (Morozov, 2013). Indeed, according to the content analysis, technical solutions to integration were sought, in many cases appearing in declarative form with little involvement or support from a reasonable percentage of staff. This attracted criticism from many interviewees. Secondly, inequality between faculties – in terms of size, power, resources, degree of integration, etc. - stood out. This may be partly due to the historical legacy of independent, self-governed faculties or indeed as a result of the aforementioned external influences, such as successful internationalisation, accreditation (and the associated strategic planning), research funding, etc. Naturally, these discrepancies posed challenges when trying integrate disparate parties according to standardised criteria (e.g. quality management procedures).
Given that integration relates to the optimisation of a system, an important concept that hindered the adoption of such initiatives was ‘reflexive positionality’. In the context of the thesis, reflexive positionality is an ideal, which refers to an individual’s affiliation with and awareness of their role as being part of, and contributing to, the holistic institutional environment. The author observes a lack of reflexive positionality at both universities. All interviewees either described or demonstrated the fact that their social identity related to a limited field of activity usually confined to their immediate disciplinary group or the faculty; academic tribes and territories seemed to prevail. Exceptions were those in university-wide positions of responsibility, who exhibited a greater degree of reflexive positionality, as would be expected.
The three constructs from the conceptual framework – namely, identity, hierarchy and rationality - proved a useful lens for which to group the emerged themes related to policy enactments.
Identity relates to enactments that attempt to socially reconstruct what the organization is or would like to be. There are two main levels on which to analyse the enactment of university integration as it relates to identity; the university and the faculty level.
Firstly, on the university level, the content analysis suggests that both UL and UM have transitioned from being social institutions in the most fundamental sense - i.e. something that transcends individual reflection and intentions (Miller, 2012) - to organisational actors. This entails more specific goals, missions and a self-determined sense of direction, as well as the ongoing elaboration, expansion and differentiation of formal organizational structures (Krücken, 2011). Indeed, the myriad of strategic documents and the development of university-wide systems, projects and structures indicate this fact.
However, the extent to which formal attempts to produce a common organisational identity actually impact individuals in questionable. As one interviewee noted, “We made an action plan. But it’s general good wishes; no clear actions. And nobody is pushing” (Interview 6; 7/4/2014). Whatever their espoused identities, the author argues that UL and UM are both still in their infancy in terms of developing an integrated organisational identity.
On the faculty level, the content analysis suggests that university-level attempts to develop a shared identity do not permeate the members. Indeed, internal borders between faculties remain quite strong. During the interviews, all members provided examples and anecdotes related specifically to their own faculties, and only those in the rectorate demonstrated a holistic, university-wide identification. Even strategic thought was predominantly confined to these borders. Phrases like, “in our school”, and “at our faculty” were ubiquitous during interviews. Indeed, “we” almost exclusively referred to the faculty, rather than the university as a whole. Moreover, the diversity of logos and faculty-level strategic documentation confirms this disparity and fragmentation.
Thus, there exists a certain contradiction between an increasingly coherent organisational identity and the persistence of strong, independent faculties. While a degree of integration at the systemic and university levels is evident, responses to these initiatives tend to take place within disparate organisational units.
The second construct relates to issues of hierarchy. Indeed, the implication of university integration is increased central coordination and control; a kind of hierarchization of the university. In this regard, three main aspects stand out in terms of enactment, namely: changes (or lack thereof) to decision-making structures; the professionalization (or lack thereof) of management; and internal power relations.
Indeed, university integration implies a rationalisation of governing mechanisms in the pursuit of efficiency, and the effective implementation of institutional strategies. For both UL and UM, such notions represent a change to traditional collegial governance, in which decisions pass through the rectorate, the senate, the governing board and the student council to gain approval. This model is still employed. In fact, collegial governance seems to be highly supported by the Slovenian academy, with deans and academic staff seeking to retain autonomy, and sceptical of shifting power to the university level (Zgaga et al., 2013). Accordingly, there were few signs that an increasingly hierarchical power structure would replace the current model anytime soon.
In saying that, UM did demonstrate a bolder, more decisive rectorate. Both the university and faculty leadership demonstrated a willingness to impose sanctions on poor performing faculty, with two interviewees referring to mandatory retirement, dismissals, and some consequent court cases. But given that the current governance model does not allocate more responsibility to leaders, such persons had little room for executive decision-making and were expected to gain consensus in order that their plans would be approved.
Contrary to the preference for collegial governance, the academy felt “it is necessary or inevitable to professionalise the management of universities” (Zgaga et al., 2013, p. 41). However, the majority of interviewees at both universities articulated the fact that, despite this attitude, professionalisation of university management has not yet been realised. This was confirmed by the lack of new, specialised positions and units.
Inherent in hierarchy are issues of power. Indeed, relative differences give faculties impetus to pursue relative differences in the exercise of power. In this context, power is not simply based on legitimate, formal sources but also on social sources (French & Raven, 1959). Accordingly, the author noted that the rectorates tended to derive power and spur change through the provision of resources and information, what can be described as informational sources of power (Raven, 1965), while the exercise of power by stronger faculties was primarily based on knowledge, experience, skills and talents; i.e. expert sources of power (French & Raven, 1959).
The final construct is rationalisation. At the most basic level, this means setting and measuring objectives. Accordingly, the emergence of explicit strategic objectives at UL and UM has already been mentioned However, while a vast array of documents have been published, the actual goals tended to be broad and imprecise. This results in difficulty in measuring success. Additionally, these goals and objectives are still far from being a common standard across the entire university.
At both universities, quality management and ICT are the two areas receiving most attention in terms of rationalisation. The focus on quality as a means of rationalisation is significant in and of itself, as it indicates a strong connection to the European HE policy space. Indeed, quality development is one of the few areas to which the EU can directly contribute. The author argues that while a focus on quality may have some positive implications for university integration, it also provides numerous challenges related to the relevance of the specified criteria as well as the perceived bureaucratisation and administrative burden that comes with such tasks.
Evidence suggests that attitudes are shifting within the two Slovenian universities to accept the inevitability of change, particularly amongst senior leaders. This includes the acknowledgment for a more socially-embedded, flexible, professional, rational, socially-just, meritocratic and integrated university. Accordingly, there are an increasing number of initiatives to this end that are taking root, particularly the recent implementation of longer-term strategic planning and quality management. It is difficult to say whether examples of integration are a ‘result’ of policy, or whether they are simply subjective responses to real, external pressures inherent in global trends, such as competition, demographics, globalisation, and financial crises.
Yet overall there remains a degree of variation as to how the two universities interpreted and enacted such change. While favourable attitudes and initial actions were detectable, they certainly were not universal. Dichotomies were apparent between and within universities as to how integration was defined, from where it should be initiated, and how to achieve it. Certainly, UM demonstrated a more determined attempt by the rectorate to integrate whilst UL evidences a rather more democratic, ad-hoc, yet not altogether ineffective, approach.
Socio-cultural and historical identities, coupled with scepticism towards transnational policy discourses, prevents the whole-hearted adoption of change. This may be justified given the negative fallout of recent market-oriented HE policies, such as a burgeoning private sector with questionable quality and integrity, the troubled implementation of the Bologna process and the increased demands on the professoriate with little demonstrable benefit. Such features may not just be particular to Slovenia but symptomatic of academia at large in Continental Europe.
As Bleiklie & Kogan (2007, p. 481) note: “In European public systems, the extent to which rhetoric based on the corporate management ideal has been followed up in practice varies and exists in a sometimes uneasy relationship with bureaucratic steering and the social responsibilities of universities as civil service institutions”. Therefore, the current changes towards more integrated universities may in fact be less far-reaching that the political rhetoric suggests, buffered by traditional characteristics and modes of organisation.
The thesis uncovered many artefacts, which warrant more targeted digging. Any one of the variables related to the policy context or to interpretation and enactment in Slovenia could be pursued.
Specifically, new theorisations of integration in non-Western contexts would be insightful. In Slovenia, a number of topics are potentially interesting, particularly socio-cultural phenomena like identity, reflexive positionality, resistance to technical solutionism, power and politics, all of which require sophisticated analytical tools. More practical areas of focus could be governance and decision making structures, case studies of new projects, strategies or organisational units, and analyses of policy, funding models, resource allocation, and career structures.
There are also practical implications from the thesis. Notably, dichotomies need to be addressed. At an institutional level the notion of subsidiarity is proposed as a means to resolve the conflict between collegial governance and efficient, effective, empowered and responsible faculty and staff. In general, subsidiarity aims to have most tasks determined and carried out as close as possible to the recipients of such decisions. However, it allows for intervention by a central authority both in terms of determining policy and in in terms of executing decisions and tasks, should the central authority be more effective at doing so. Applying this concept to integration would allow greater strategic coordination at a university level, while still ensuring that individuals could exercise their discretion at a more localised level.
However, this requires strong university-wide systems, processes and policies, as well as strong human resource competences, in order to support the ‘front line’ and respond and correct errors made at a local level (Birnbaum, 1988).
Thus, concrete recommendations include:
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to: firstly my supervisor, Professor Pavel Zgaga; the MaRIHE professoriate and staff; particularly Dr Attila Pausits, Professor CAI Yuzhuo, and Dr YE Juyan; all the interviewees who were kind enough to offer their time and insights; Dr Manja Klemenčič and Dr Martina Vukasović; my wonderful peers and friends from MaRIHE; and finally my beloved family, Urša, Luka and Mila, to whom I dedicate this thesis.
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