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Disputation: Philipp Emanuel Friedrich

Master Philipp Emanuel Friedrich at the Department of Education will defend the thesis "Administrative reorganization as a means to improve the public governance of European higher education. A comparative case study of Austria and Norway" for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor. 

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Philipp Friedrich. Photo: Shane Colvin/UiO.

Click to join the trial lecture and disputation via Zoom

Trial lecture - time and place

Thursday February 17, 2022, 10:00 a.m., Lecture Hall 2, Helga Engs Hus 

Title: "Organizational changes in national higher education: does/did Europeanization matter?"

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Giliberto Capano, University of Bologna, Italy (the first opponent)
  • Professor Linda Wedlin, Uppsala universitet, Sweden (the second opponent)
  • Professor Berit Karseth, Department of Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, is third member of the committee and the committee's coordinator.

Chair of defence

Professor Tone Kvernbekk, Department of Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo



Reorganizing the bureaucracy is expected to improve public sector governance. In line with other policy sectors, the modernization of European higher education was characterized by such reform attempts during the past decades. The national reform agendas of most European countries in the late 1990s and early 2000s included, amongst other things, organizational changes in the ministerial bureaucracy, the establishment of public agencies in key policy areas such as quality assurance and internationalization, and in general a focus on reorganizing the governance arrangements in the higher education sector. Although considerable research has been conducted on different aspects of the governance reforms in this sector, such as institutional autonomy, funding mechanisms, or academic freedom, evidence on how the ministerial bureaucracy itself changed as an organization is still limited.

The aim of this thesis is to address organizational change in the ministerial bureaucracy— in the literature defined as the process of administrative reorganization—and its effects on the sector’s governance by studying, amongst others things, the establishment of public agencies in this policy sector. To this end, this study makes use of conceptual and analytical approaches from the fields of public administration, public policy, and higher education research and is grounded in an organizational theory approach.

The starting point is the assumption that effective governance arrangements can be determined via the organizational design of central administrative organizations. The analytical concepts developed and applied are ministerial authority, agency autonomy, organizational capacity, and bureaucratic accountability. The study is designed as a comparative case study of two higher education ministries undergoing a comprehensive reorganization process.

The empirical context of this study is the Austrian and Norwegian higher education policy sectors, where administrative reorganization and the establishment of public agencies were key components in the governance reforms of the early 2000s. The collection and analysis of statistical data on organizational developments, legal frameworks, policy documents, and key expert interviews with bureaucrats, policymakers, and academics provides the empirical evidence for this study. The theoretical framework and empirical analysis of this study are outlined in three journal articles, each addressing different aspects of the organizational changes and governance reforms in the respective higher education administrations.

Article 1 examines the organizational transformations in the Austrian and Norwegian ministries and the subsequent agencification processes with a focus on developments in ministerial authority, agency autonomy, and organizational capacity. Article 2 addresses the governance relationship between ministries and agencies and how areas of responsibility between the two bureaucratic levels are defined. Article 3 focuses on the effectiveness II of the organizational changes by studying how agencies are held accountable for their operations in the sector.

The findings show that the ministerial bureaucracy in Austria and Norway rearranged the governance structures of their respective higher education sectors in different ways. The ministerial bureaucracy can choose among different governance options based on how organizational mandates are shaped and how resources are distributed between the ministerial and agency levels. In Austria, the ministry reduced its organizational capacity and strengthened the capacity at the agency level in the areas of quality assurance and internationalization with delay. In Norway, the ministry maintained stable capacity parameters and continuously strengthened the agency level in the areas of quality assurance and internationalization after the reforms. In both contexts, one can observe enhanced bureaucratic accountability through more political control and new administrative procedures. These changes are more visible in the Norwegian than in the Austrian case owing to the different autonomy/capacity developments and the possibility for the ministry to follow up on the agency’s accountability more effectively. The Austrian approach can thus be considered as more minimalistic but with less systemic coordination, whereas the Norwegian approach can be considered as more comprehensive and control-oriented with enhanced systemic coordination.

The study helps to clarify how administrative reorganization influences public sector governance based on how organizational mandates are designed and resources are distributed between the ministerial and agency levels. These findings provide important insights into the governance of higher education, as they shed light on the underlying reform dynamics of this policy sector. In this way, the study makes relevant contributions to the study of both governance reforms in higher education and organizational changes in the bureaucracy.

Published Feb. 10, 2022 6:54 PM - Last modified Mar. 24, 2022 11:24 AM