University Reforms in Context: The Relationship Between University Reforms and General Reforms in the Public Sector

Carsten Greve, Niels Ejersbo

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The chapter asks how and why reforms at universities correspond with the more general reform tendencies in the public sector. Using the Danish case as a point of departure, the chapter provides an overview of central reform elements at universities such as structural and organizational changes, performance management developments, professionalized management requirements, amalgamations, and incentive systems. The purpose is to understand how universities have been reformed during a 15-year period. The official reform proposals and legislation from the government will be documented and discussed. The chapter will track the particular changes from one reform proposal to the next, including the reform introducing boards and giving the rector/president more power, the structural reform merging universities that reduced the number from 12 to 8 universities in 2008, and the recent reform efforts aimed at securing competitive power in the international ranking game and the need to attract external funding from research councils and private sector companies and foundations. The chapter shows how universities have been reformed through a gradual and layered process making universities more geared towards both being ranked internationally and serving the purpose of the Danish industry and commerce. The second part of the chapter will ask how the specific university reforms are related to the wider and international reform trends associated with key governance forms such as New Public Management, New Public Governance, and the Neo-Weberian State. These reform trends have been documented both in international research (see for example Pollitt and Bouckaert’s book on Public Management Reform [2017], and the recent COCOPS-project book on Public Administration Reforms in Europe edited by Hammerschmid, Van den Walle, Andrews and Bezes [2016]). Using a theoretical approach on gradual institutional change in the tradition of Streeck and Thelen, the chapter shows how reform elements are typically “layered” on top of each other in an incremental way that paves the way for a gradual change. The chapter ends by pointing to a new and 28more complex form of organization for the university where change is gradual, but persistent, and where several governance forms are wired into the current university structure today, which then again presents new and pressing challenges for university boards, university directors, and employees.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGoverning the Reformed University
EditorsNiels Ejersbo, Carsten Greve, Signe Pihl-Thingvad
Number of pages13
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9781138068421
ISBN (Electronic)9781315157979
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesRoutledge Critical Studies in Public Management

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