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University Governance in European universities : between convergence and differentiation, results from the SUN project

The project started with 10 researchers from 5 organisations and 4 countries and enlarged to 3 other countries, 11 new researchers and 4 new participants after its initial phase. The project gathered both senior researchers and recruited doctoral students that focused in their respective countries either on doctoral training or on research funding. The latter was systematic and a unique feature within PRIME projects (see list below). This explained why the project in its final stages devoted time to collective overseeing and the organisation of specific PhD targeted workshops (the last one in July 2009). It developed a common frame for analysis for macro-level comparisons. As such it is an achievement and this is visible in the book where the comparative so called ‘thematic charts’ take over 50 out of the 340 pages.

SUN : PhD students associated to the project
Julien Barrier, FNSP/CSO, La science en projets, régimes de financement et reconfigurations du travail des chercheurs académiques. Le cas des sciences et technologies de l’information et de la communication en France (1982-2006). Defense : September 14, 2010.
Lukas Baschung, OSPS, Univ Lausanne, The Steering of Doctoral Education’sReform in Switzerland and Norway. A Public Management Analysis. Defense : 2/11/2010
Felipe Camerati, FNSP/CSO and Royal Holloway, Les transformations du système de financement de la recherche dans les universités britanniques". Defense in 2011.
Aubepine Dahan, The role of practices in institutional change, the evolution of doctoral programs in France 1990-2008, Defense : early 2011
Gigliola Mathisen Nyhagen, Univeristy of Bergen, Universities between stability and change ; The creation of cross-disciplinary research centres at Norwegian universities. Expected defense : December 2011.
Laura Pedron, CNR, La Governance del sistema universitario. Alcune evidenze sul rapporto tra governance, performance scientifica e performance innovativa in alcuni paesi europei e non. Defence : December 22, 2006
Marco Seeber, CNR, Analisi dei cambiamenti nella governance delle università italiane e del ruolo della valutazione e del finanziamento come strumenti di steering dell’attività di ricerca’ Defence : February 24, 2009

SUN : The 21 thematic items of the comparative frame (and thematic charts built)
(1) Laws, decrees… Procedures ; (2) External governance ; (3) Stakeholders ; (4) Decision making on internal organization ; (5) Property of real estate, equipment, capital ; (6) External allocation of funds ; (7) Internal allocation of funds ; (8) Accounting, audit ; (9) Evaluation ; (10) HRM, (11) Changes in the composition of the labour force ; (12) Decision for recruitment and promotion ; (13) Recruitment and promotion : internal vs external labour markets ; (14) Promotions : performance, status and seniority, rewards to “public service” ; (15) The academic profession ; (16) Internal organization (decision making bodies, academic organization) ; (17) Organization of teaching and research ; (18) University leaders and managers ; (19) Narrative and Ideology carriers ; (20) Narratives carriers ; (21) Major questions on the agenda

This frame enabled to account for national trajectories and gave rise both to detailed national reports and to book chapters that account for the key elements of the national dynamics, and use the work done on doctoral training and research funding by PhD students to discuss dynamics in detail. It enables the reader to grasp the major conclusions of the project.

The authors (see extended concluding chapter) locate university steering ‘between stories of management on one side and histories of public sector regulations on the other’. The two stories are the two dominating narratives that organise most of the academic work on the topic : the new Public Management and the Network Governance paradigms. Comparative results corroborate the idea that universities have witnessed an organisational turn over the last 30 years, through a set of transformed managerial approaches, ‘steering at a distance’ (new allocation models, indicators, assessment quality auditing and ranking) being central. However, what appears at first sight as a striking convergence between European countries covers a great variety of implementation processes. The path followed in most if not all countries, has been reformist, that is in continuity with local political and administrative orders. This work thus suggests that grand narratives such as NPM and Network Governance narratives do not tell the history of change. They may influence visions and tools developed by reformers, but policymaking and its implementation remain dependent on specific national settings. And the major conclusion of this European comparison is that this transformation process (still on-going) might lead to various forms of articulation between universities and civil and political society and that these still remain to study, complementary to the empirical analysis of university differentiation.


University Governance edited by C. Paradeise, E. Reale, I. Bleiklie and E. Ferlie (Springer, Collection Western European Comparative Perspectives, 2009)


1 The Governance of Higher Education Systems : A Public Management Perspective, by
E. Ferlie, C. Musselin and G. Andresani
2 France : From Incremental Transitions to Institutional Change, by C. Musselin and C. Paradeise
3 Germany : A Latecomer to New Public Management, by U. Schimank and S. Lange
4 Italy : Local Policy Legacy and Moving to an ‘In Between’ ConīŦguration, by E. Reale and B. Potì
5 Netherlands : An ‘Echternach’ Procession in Different Directions : Oscillating Steps Towards Reform, by D. Westerheijden, H. de Boer and J. Enders
6 Norway : From Tortoise to Eager Beaver ? By I. Bleiklie
7 Switzerland : Between Cooperation and Competition, by L. Baschung, M. Benninghoff, G. Goastellec and J. Perellon
8 United Kingdom from Bureau Professionalism to New Public Management ? By E. Ferlie and G. Andresani
9 A Comparative Approach to Higher Education Reforms in Western European Countries, by C. Paradeise, E. Reale and G. Goastellec
10 Universities Steering between Stories and History, by C. Paradeise, E. Reale, G. Goastellec and I. Bleiklie
Annex : thematic charts 

Some other directly related publications
Paradeise C. and G. Goastellec, 2009, Internationalisation des systèmes d’enseignement supérieur : convergence et différenciation, in J.-Ph. Leresche, Ph. Larédo et K. Weber (eds.) L’internationalisation de la Recherche et enseignement supérieur face à l’internationalisation. France, Suisse et Union européenne, Lausanne : Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes (PPUR).
Bleiklie, I., Enders, J., Goastellec, G., Michelsen, S., Paradeise, C., Reale, E., & Westerheijden, D., 2009, Reform policies and change processes in Europe, in J. Huisman (ed.) International Perspectives on the Governance of Higher Education : Alternative Frameworks for Coordination, London : Routledge.
Reale E., Seeber M., 2010, Organisation response to institutional pressures in Higher Education : the important role of disciplines, Higher Education, online first.




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