Internal Transformation and External Engagement: Building a New University
by Romulo Pinheiro
HEIK working paper 2012/02
Dr. Romulo Pinheiro
In Norway, as in many other Nordic countries, the higher education landscape is under profound transformation. This process is being driven by a number of factors; demography, local and ntional competitive pressures, institutional aspirations, etc., with many so-called ‘university-colleges’ aspiring to become fully-fledge universities. This paper sheds light on the dynamics of one such institution, the recently established University of Agder in the South of the country.
Conceptually, the paper builds on the notion of university complexity/ambiguity and the importance attributed to macro-level (environmental) features like stylised university models. On the basis of desktop review of institutional documents and semi-structured interviews with university actors (central and unit levels), the paper maps out and tries to make sense of: a) the structural and cultural changes brought by the change in legal status; b) the role of the university in the context of its immediate geographic surroundings; and c) the prevalence of global models for organizing activities, including their consequent impact on external engagement processes.
The empirical findings suggest that the university is attempting to find a balance between its global (excellence) and local (relevance) aspirations, but that it currently faces a number of key challenges.
The paper provides critical insights to institutional managers and policy-making audiences, in addition to social scientists interested in organizational change/adaptation within (European) higher education systems.