Open seminar: University governing boards in Norway and Germany

Presenters are Agnete Vabø from NIFU and Daniel Houben from RWTH Aachen.

Dr. Agnete Vabø, NIFU. Photo: Private


This presentation combines two research projects on university boards, one from Norway and one from Germany.

For the Norwegian case:

In recent years universities and colleges have seen significant reforms in terms of organization, forms of government and management practices, both at the vertical and horizontal levels (Paradeise et. Al 2009, Locke et al 2011). In the Nordic countries overall, universities and colleges have traditionally been characterized by a distinctly democratic and collegial form of government. The last decade has been characterized by extensive reforms aimed to improve the opportunities for strategic management of institutions (see for example Frølich & Stensaker, 2012; Larsen, 2007). The kinds of organisational changes made are also characterized by a reduction and alteration in the composition of representatives in the governing bodies of institutions, more conscious use of strategic plans and recruitment strategies, the development of leadership skills, and a strengthening of administrative functions. The new governance regimes emphasize that the HE sector should develop and cultivate their interactions with society. Most significantly, this was expected to occur through legal requirements for external representation on boards and committees. However, as yet we have little knowledge about these external board members, how they are recruited, their background, how they perceive their mandate, how they are actually used in the management of universities and colleges and how this can contribute to quality.

This presentation presents the results of a survey sent to all external board members at Norwegian universities and colleges over the last ten years - since the system was implemented in 2005. This group has never been studied before and so the survey collects information on a range of basic academic and social background variables. On basis of this material the social identity, background and self-understanding of the group is discussed. Furthermore, the paper discusses the representatives’ role in institutional management work, and the types of problems and tasks in which they are typically consulted, such as strategic planning (Stensaker, Vabø et al 2013).

For the German case:

University boards and strategic networks in higher education Since the introduction of university boards to the German higher education system several years ago there has been an ongoing debate about the possible merits and pitfalls of external or even non-academic organizations engaging in university governance. Supporters welcome the outside perspective of board members whereas opponents claim it to be a giant leap towards a neoliberal commodification of research and education. Only very little research on the structure and effects of those (German) corporate-university-ties has been conducted so far. The talk will present the findings of a preliminary study on German university boards and answer questions like: What kind of organizations and professions are most likely to be found on university boards? Do certain industrial sectors tie up with certain universities? What kind of networks can be identified? The presentation will be followed by an open discussion of possible future research directions on higher education networks and strategic university behavior on an international level.

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Published Feb. 17, 2014 10:43 AM - Last modified Apr. 16, 2015 3:18 PM