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The re-modeling of Higher Education - the introduction of performance-based research funding at new universities and university colleges in Sweden
Institutionen för pedagogik, Linnéuniversitetet.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
2017 (English)In: ECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research. Network 22: Research in Higher Education, 2017Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Global competition has made European universities increasingly expressing their commitment to excellence as the overarching goal. Widespread reforms of governance and funding of universities have taken place in most Western countries, many of them influenced by New Public Management (NPM). National calls for excellence and the construction of research evaluation systems.

 

This study seeks to add to the knowledge of performance based systems by investigating how changes are carried out on the organisational level and promote greater empirical knowledge on HE organisation and systems of research funding. This study sets out to study the following: How are policy changes received and translated in specific HE organisational contexts? Based on the neo-institutional theory of translation (Latour 1986), the idea of changes in research funding systems can be viewed as being dependent on actors passing on structural changes in HEIs.

 

The process of translation can be seen as a continuous transformation of ideas that moves from one actor/level to another, where the degree of change, at the local level, can vary based on organisational space for interpretation. Actors can be seen as socially embedded in and influenced by their environments (Ramirez and Tiplic 2014). Ideas, thus, seem to be adopted and used in rather homogeneous ways, making organisations increasingly similar, which can be described by isomorphic processes (DiMaggio and Powell 1983).   From the above-presented information, this article seeks to describe how the changing system of assessing and funding research quality impacts Swedish HEIs regarding the universities’ internal organisational performance based systems. This article seeks to explore changes in research policy and its effect on internal organisation of performance based on funding systems in Swedish higher education institutions.

 

Which models of performance based systems have been introduced? How are the models relating to the national model and how do universities motivate their introduction? The aim of the study is to analyze the introduction of performance based systems for research funding at Swedish universities. The analysis is based on an analytical framework inspired by Whitley (2007) including the 1) Frequency and standardisation of systems, 2) Unit of assessment, 3) Motives for introduction and 4) Consequences for funding.

 

Previous studies of performance based systems for research funding has primary been of large, full-scale universities with stable access to government funding (Görnerup 2013, Hammarfeldt, 2016, Melander 2006). Newer universities and university colleges are considered to have a smaller proportion of state research funding and less stable organisations to manoeuvre. This has guided the selection of institutions to those with smaller size, and less permanent research resources. Seven new universities and university colleges are selected in order to reflect the Swedish landscape of new HEIs in terms of both size and geography. The study is based on documents and in-depth interviews with university and faculty leaders from the seven selected universities and university colleges. The document study includes annual reports, budget documents, visions and research strategies. Also, 38 semi-structured interviews were completed covering topics such as research funding and performance based systems in order to investigate what causes, transformations, reasons and result that the leaders at different levels experienced in relation to research strategies.

Preliminary results indicate that motives for and models of performance based allocation of research funding differ between the studied higher education institutions in Sweden. Among the institutions studied there is example of both clear performance based models to systems of distribution that lack performance features and instead are based on path dependency. HEIs with university-status communicate aim at excellence, at least according to the central university level. The discourse on excellence is however somewhat problematized on the level of faculty. One reason for this is the belief that to gain excellence you have to start with a broad approach. At the university colleges, different motives for the introduction of performance based allocation are expresses, and in contrast to the newer universities hare there are examples of a lack of visible excellence discourse.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-138941OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-138941DiVA: diva2:1138236
Conference
ECER 2017 Copenhagen, The European Conference on Educational Research, 22-25 August.
Available from: 2017-09-04 Created: 2017-09-04 Last updated: 2017-09-04

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