The role of the government in higher education
A comparative study on the administrative re-organization of the Austrian and Norwegian higher education ministries
About the project
I am interested in organizational change of national higher education ministries and agencies in the aftermath of comprehensive university reforms. My empirical cases are the Austrian and Norwegian ministries responsible for higher education and their relationship to two subordinate agencies (AQ Austria and OeAD in Austria, NOKUT and SIU in Norway). Both their national higher education systems were reformed 15 to 20 years ago. While most of the attention was given to how the universities interpreted that newly granted autonomy, hardly anyone addressed the question how the ministries would be affected.
Two analytical dimensions stand out in this examination, which are autonomy/authority and capacity issues. Briefly put I study how formal and informal autonomy (who is responsible for what) and how the policy capacity of ministries and agencies has developed in the study period. I also reflect upon balancing these dimensions, e.g. has an organization enough capacity to implement its mission and can it make proper use of its autonomy?
Scope of articles
The PhD project is implemented as an article based dissertation, consisting of three interrelated scientific papers and an extended abstract. The scope of the articles is as follows:
- In Article 1, I set the stage for examining change at ministerial level, meaning that I described the formal organizational changes that have taken place in the Austrian and Norwegian ministries accompanied by the establishment of new agencies.
- In Article 2, I focus on relational aspects between ministry and agencies that have emerged in the aftermath of the reforms. Of interest is how authority/autonomy and capacity has developed and distributed between the organizations, and the particularities and challenges that have emerged.
- In Article 3, I address the quality of these organizational changes based on questions of accountability. In other words, what can we say about the effectiveness and results of higher education reforms when it comes to the development of accountability mechanisms?