Horizontal governance and learning dynamics in higher education (HORIZON) (completed)

This project examines the major change dynamics in higher education both in terms of governance and learning processes, and the relationships between the two.

View the extended project outline (pdf).


Primary objective is to contribute to an improved understanding of major change dynamics in higher education with respect to higher education governance and learning processes in higher education institutions, as well as the relationships between these two.

Secondary objectives include:

  • To examine how European level knowledge policies have been developed and coordinated since 2000, and how they affect the development and coordination of Norwegian knowledge policies, with special focus on the educational component.
  • To analyze how horizontally coordinated knowledge policies and developments are handled at central level in higher education institutions.
  • To study how knowledge cultures constitute academic communities in contexts of change, with emphasis given to the arrangements and mechanisms by which students are enrolled in these knowledge cultures
  • To analyze from a multi-level perspective the change dynamics of higher education systems and institutions.

Project summary

The HORIZON project is aimed at contributing to an improved understanding of major change dynamics in higher education with respect to higher education governance and learning processes in higher education institutions, as well as the way these two are connected.

The changes in governance and learning processes can be interpreted as a horizontal extension of traditionally vertical processes. Concerning the horizontalization of governance HORIZON is interested in how higher education policies have been coordinated with other knowledge policy areas. When it comes to learning processes in higher education HORIZON is focused on the way in which these have become spatially extended, and currently comprise a multitude of sites and practices which may co-exist and interact in complex ways. Finally, the horizontal extension of governance and learning processes has made the vertical coordination practices and structures more complex.

HORIZON will analyze how institutional leadership in higher education institutions connects the two 'horizontalization' processes. Special focus will be on examining the role of knowledge cultures in constituting dynamics of learning in higher professional programmes, on examining the interpretations among institutional leaders at various levels of the extended governance and learning contexts, and the way in which these interpretations affect the connection between the two. For this purpose, amongst other things, the educational strategies of the institutions involved will be studied.

The analytical framework for this project is built upon two theoretical perspectives, i.e. institutional theory and an epistemic culture perspective. This analytical framework represents an important development in educational research since it concerns an effort to integrate traditionally separated perspectives and research activities. This framework allows for an integrated multi-level analysis of the change dynamics in higher education systems and institutions.


The project is funded through the FINNUT programme for Research and Innovation in the Educational Sector at NFR. Previously it received funding throught the Utdanning2020 programme which was consolidated into the FINNUT programme in 2014.

Research category

Applied research

Download the extended project outline (pdf).


  • Nerland, Monika (2018). Knowledge practices and relations in professional education. Studies in Continuing Education. ISSN 0158-037X. 40(3), p. 242–256. doi: 10.1080/0158037X.2018.1447919. Full text in Research Archive
  • Damsa, Crina I.; Nerland, Monika & Jensen, Karen (2017). Enrolment of first-year students in knowledge domains: Unpacking transformative practices in three introductory courses. In Kyndt, Eva; Donche, Vincent; Trigwell, Keith & Lindblom-Ylänne, Sari (Ed.), Higher Education Transitions: Theory and Research. Routledge. ISSN 978-1138670884. doi: 10.4324/9781315617367-20.
  • Enqvist-Jensen, Cecilie; Nerland, Monika & Rasmussen, Ingvill (2017). Maintaining doubt to keep problems open for exploration: An analysis of law students' collaborative work with case assignments. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. ISSN 2210-6561. 13, p. 38–49. doi: 10.1016/j.lcsi.2017.02.001. Full text in Research Archive
  • Rasmussen, Ingvill & Damsa, Crina I. (2016). Heterochrony through moment-to-moment interaction: A micro-analytical exploration of learning as sense making with multiple resources. International Journal of Educational Research. ISSN 0883-0355. doi: 10.1016/j.ijer.2016.04.003.
  • Damsa, Crina I. & Nerland, Monika (2016). Student Learning Through Participation in Inquiry Activities: Two Case Studies in Teacher and Computer Engineering Education. Vocations and Learning. ISSN 1874-785X. p. 1–20. doi: 10.1007/s12186-016-9152-9.
  • Damsa, Crina I. & Ludvigsen, Sten Runar (2016). Learning through interaction and co-construction of knowledge objects in teacher education. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. ISSN 2210-6561. 11, p. 1–18. doi: 10.1016/j.lcsi.2016.03.001.
  • Nerland, Monika (2016). Learning to Master Profession-Specific Knowledge Practices: A Prerequisite for the Deliberate Practitioner? In Trede, Franziska & McEwen, Celina (Ed.), Educating the Deliberate Professional. Springer Science+Business Media B.V.. ISSN 978-3-319-32956-7. p. 127–139. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-32958-1_9.
  • Jensen, Karen; Nerland, Monika & Enqvist-Jensen, Cecilie (2015). Enrolment of newcomers in expert cultures: an analysis of epistemic practices in a legal education introductory course. Higher Education. ISSN 0018-1560. 70(5), p. 867–880. doi: 10.1007/s10734-015-9872-z.
  • Jensen, Karen & Nerland, Monika (2015). Knowledge dynamics in higher education: Examples from law schools in Norway and their shadow arrangements. In Langemeyer, Ines; Fischer, Martin & Pfadenhauer, Michaela (Ed.), Epistemic and learning cultures – wohin sich Universitäten entwickeln. Verlagsgruppe Beltz. ISSN 978-3-7799-3277-2. p. 46–60.

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  • Maassen, Peter; Nerland, Monika & Yates, Lyn (2018). Reconfiguring Knowledge in Higher Education. Springer Nature. ISBN 978-3-319-72831-5. 208 p.

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  • de Lange, Thomas & Nerland, Monika (2014). Mirroring the Practice of Teaching - Exploring Microteaching as a site for Professional Enactments.

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Published Aug. 14, 2013 2:50 PM - Last modified Feb. 8, 2020 3:31 AM