Fortællinger fra universitetet: Et speciale om institutlederes meningsskabelse i en reformtid

Lise Degn

Student thesis: Master thesis


Within the past decades Danish and European universities and the public sector in general, have undergone several reforms – a process which in the case of the Danish universities reached its preliminary culmination in 2003 with a far-reaching reform of especially the management structure. The reform has been heatedly discussed both within the universities and in the media, and the debate has clarified two different perceptions of the purpose and role of the university in society, which clash quite significantly. Between these two perceptions we find the department managers who are required to act sensibly in this complex environment, both as personnel, administrative, strategic and scientific managers. I discuss this situation through an analysis of the institutional environment of department managers, using institutional theory and Karl E. Weicks concept of sensemaking. The analysis shows that the institutional identity of the university clashes significantly with the political narrative about the university reform, especially in regards to the construction of the manager-role and the role of the public administrator. Legitimate behavior connected with these roles is mutually exclusive in the two narratives. An alternative institutional identity is identified in material from The Technical University of Denmark, which is more in tune with the political construction of the role and purpose of the university. I investigate the sensemaking process of the department managers of three Danish universities, to explore how meaning is created on this level, and which norms and perceptions from their institutional environment, the department managers reproduce and exclude in their sensemaking process. I discuss how the rationality and the different institutions of the university reform pass through a sensemaking process at this level, and conclude that a significant filter is established, which filters out elements which clash with the perceived institutional identity and that a new meaning is created using institutions which do not clash with this identity. I find that especially an identity conflict between the role as a scientist and the role as a manager, causes the possibility for action among the department leader to be reduced. I present several considerations which could usefully be brought into future reform processes.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages92