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Higher Education Institutions in the Middle of Academic, Economic and Social Pressures
Universities can be viewed and studied as political institutions, especially considering that they sit at the crossroads of social, cultural, and economic pressures. The internal and external environment of higher education brings with it multiple and complex relationships as well as power struggles. Within these contested political spaces, there are phenomena to be studied.

While the field of higher education draws from a multitude of disciplines, some scholars argue that only recently has scholarship focused on the political perspectives of higher education. To better understand the politics and policies of higher education, Universities as Political Institutions illuminates a variety of ways that researchers view and study universities as a political institution, from considering the national and international political pressures shaping higher education to the analysis of responses and political action from within the ivory tower.

The 2017 annual CHER conference in Jyväskylä (Finland) brought together 213 scholars from 30 countries. This book includes a selection of papers and keynote presentations from this conference. The thematic approach of the book reflects the 2017 conference theme: "Universities as Political Institutions – Higher Education Institutions in the Middle of Academic, Economic, and Social Pressures". The theme focused on multiple and often complex relations and relationships, internal and external, to higher education institutions. In this context, "political" refers not only to definitions, uses, and users of power but more broadly to a variety of relationships among different actors and agencies responsible for making, executing, or resisting decisions concerning higher education institutions.
Chapter 7 Student Protests and Higher Education Transformation

Abstract

In 2015 and 2016 South African higher education was shaken by countrywide student protests that became known as the #FeesMustFall student movement. Against a backdrop of the history of student protests in the country, this chapter outlines the main issues that drove the protest movement with a view to highlighting the intersectionality and complexity of the issues. The focus is then narrowed to how #FeesMustFall played out at one particular university, demonstrating the similarities and differences within the broader movement. In addition, the authors employed document analysis to highlight the university management’s responses to six issues raised by the students. Although there were some wins in terms of ‘free’ higher education and amendments to the university’s language policy, the lasting effects of #FeesMustFall on institutional transformation could not conclusively be shown. The analysis also shows that, in turbulent times, the interface between external and internal contexts of higher education institutions can become very disruptive.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 12 The Applicability of Two Graduate Employability Frameworks

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to enrich the current conceptualisation of graduate employability through the lens of four distinct graduate perspectives, namely possession (of skills and competencies), position (in terms of social capital), integration (with regard to graduate and professional identity) and engagement (related to personal attributes). This contribution attempts to examine the applicability of two frameworks to a specific cross-border region in Austria and the Czech Republic. The findings of this pilot study suggest that current models do not fully cover employability-related factors when investigating the perception of graduate employability. Rather, they can be used as anchor points and need to be adapted with context-sensitive elements. An extended framework is proposed that takes account of additional ingredients for graduate employability found vital in this specific setting.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 8 University Third Mission as an Organisational and Political Field

Abstract

This chapter is an empirical analysis of University Third Mission (UTM), using a combination of organisational field concept drawn from new institutionalism, along with Bourdieu’s social field. Its aim is to understand UTM not just as a set of activities, but as an emerging area of institutional life structured by organisations, institutions, actors, relationships, activities, agendas as well as struggles. Moving from a multiple case study on three public universities located in Northern Italy, our analysis focuses on different degrees of structuration and institutionalisation of UTM. Further, for each case it considers the tensions arising among actors in the field (internal/external dimension) and inside the university setting (internal dimension).

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 10 Inclusion and Fairness in Access to Higher Education

Abstract

The article aims at exploring access to higher education as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon by distinguishing two of its aspects: inclusion and fairness, as well as at outlining the policy relevance of a social justice perspective on higher education. At the theoretical level, it bridges two of the most influential theories of justice: the Rawlsian perspective of ‘justice as fairness’ (1971) and Amartya Sen’s idea of justice (2009). At the methodological level, it develops two indices, of inclusion and fairness and uses data from the European Social Survey, Labour Force Survey, and EUROSTUDENT Survey to calculate them for two social groups: of low and high social background. Based on two criteria which account for the correspondence between the directions of change in the two indices over time, the article identifies different relationship patterns between inclusion and fairness for both social groups across Europe, assessing them as logical or contradictory.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 9 Teaching Staff in Non-University Higher Education in Japan

Abstract

The non-university higher education sector in most countries conveys vocational education. In Japan, both junior colleges and professional training colleges also provide vocational education at Level 5 of the International Standard Classifications of Education (2011). However, the historical origins of these two types of institutions differ and there is ambiguity concerning their objectives and legal requirements for their educational programmes and teaching staff. We argue that there is a need to develop a convergent research framework to assess the career experience and competencies of the teaching staff of such institutions to improve the quality of vocational education. This study investigates the career experience, competencies and identities of teaching staff in the non-university higher education sector to understand how various types of academic qualifications and work experience are related to their careers through the analysis of nationwide empirical survey data in Japan. The results identified four model types of teaching staff members’ career experience: ‘dual’, ‘academic’, ‘vocational’, and ‘other’. While most junior college teaching staff were classified as ‘academic’, there was a conflict between the identities of junior college teachers and institutional demands. ‘Academic’ teaching staff reported conflicting demands when their academic experience did not meet the professional demands made of them by junior college students. Both junior colleges and professional training colleges revealed similar demands; to strengthen teachers’ professional/vocational orientations. However, the historical origins and inertia of such institutions have not supported the improvement of education and training quality offered to students.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 6 Universitas Reformata Semper Reformanda
Author: Susanne Lohmann

Abstract

Universitates semper reformandae sunt (Latin: universities are continually in need of reform). They are naturally and inherently antithetical to change. The politics of university reform resemble a tug of war between foot-dragging university faculties and their whip-cracking political principals. The former win for the most part, the latter every now and then, which is why university history features the punctuated equilibrium pattern, to wit: long periods of institutional stasis punctuated by occasional bursts of university reform.

This facile narrative deserves to die.

With this essay I seek to complexify our thinking about the politics of university reform. Properly configured, the university is naturally and inherently dynamist. It constitutes the point of attraction in a political parallelogram of forces, with the net resultant force representing the forward movement of science and society. If the resultant goes awry, would-be university reformers can tweak the force field, by modifying one or the other component force in the parallelogram, or by adding or subtracting a force.

The prescription is to proceed conservatively, however. The university’s defects are complexly entangled with its defences. A brute force attempt to repair the university’s defects can inadvertently ruin its defences. Chances are that the cure is worse than the disease, in which case the principle ‘do no harm’ calls for a policy of ‘do nothing’. University reform properly understood is about defending the inherited idea of the university as it manifests itself in the form of the political parallelogram.

I examine two cases of university reform politics, one that played out wastefully in the United States, the other, destructively in the United Kingdom. I demonstrate that my bottom-up complex systems approach, as epitomised by the political parallelogram, gives us a better handle on the politics of university reform than does top-down principal-agent reasoning, as evidenced in the facile narrative.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Part 3 Societal Values, National Regimes and Higher Education
In: Universities as Political Institutions
Chapter 4 The Challenges of Brexit
Author: Heather Eggins

Abstract

This chapter examines the impact on UK higher education of the UK referendum decision to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016. A study of the individual responses of members of governing bodies of the UK institutions and their collective decisions is presented. The likely effects on university funding and research collaboration, on academic staff mobility and research capacity, and on student access are considered. Analysis of the findings indicates that a range of new strategies are being mooted, including the development of new income streams and the expansion of student markets. However, the problem of how best to respond to uncertainty remains.

In: Universities as Political Institutions
Part 1 Geo-Political Influences
In: Universities as Political Institutions