Sub-Plenary 1-1

Collegiality in Higher Education and Beyond:
Rethinking the Organized World


Thursday, July 6, 2023, 16:00–17:30 CEST

Campus Economia | Via Sant’Ignazio 74 | 09123 Cagliari
Building E, floor 0, room: Lai

Rick Delbridge, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Paolo Quattrone, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Jakov Jandrić, University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom
Michael Lounsbury, University of Alberta, Canada
Kerstin Sahlin, Uppsala University, Sweden
François van Schalkwyk, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

This will be an interactive sub-plenary on collegiality and its significance for universities. Based on an international comparative project on collegiality we reflect on challenges to collegiality, but also on how collegiality is maintained and transformed as a mode of governing higher education and research. We describe collegiality as the modus operandi of universities. This means that challenged and revitalized collegiality is central to the purpose of universities and to their role in society. We start with a presentation of key dimensions of collegiality and their roles in universities across the world. We then invite the audience to share experiences from their own universities. Two cases of challenged – and maintained – collegiality are presented. In another presentation from the international comparative project on collegiality, we reflect on the importance and value of varieties of collegiality on a global scale. After a Q&A session, we end with a discussion on the maintenance of collegiality and (future) varieties of collegiality followed by a mentimeter survey conducted within the room that will be used to inform a concluding discussion on future research topics.

The higher education and research system can be seen as both accommodating and reproducing a continuous dilemma. On the one hand, following Humboldtian ideals, research and higher education is expected to be run by autonomous interrelated academic communities. This is often described as collegial governance. On the other hand, research and higher education is an instrument for the fulfilment of certain goals external to the academic community. Governance and control are then tailored as means to fulfil these. In practice those forms of governance tend to be formed in line with bureaucratic or enterprise models. Governance modes not only reflect the missions of higher education and research, governance modes also impact on those missions. They are shaped by national institutional contexts and EGOS members will achieve their own experiences of how these are made manifest. Internationally, Higher Education has seen patterns of change in the relative emphases on these governance models. The sub-plenary team are part of an international network of researchers led by Kerstin Sahlin and Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist that is researching collegiality in contemporary universities (the network is publishing a double volume special issue in Research in the Sociology of Organization, forthcoming fall 2023).
Previous research on university governance, including work conducted by the network, has raised a number of issues as part of the university context, including rationalization and organizing where universities clearly are shaped increasingly as organizational actors (and with this has come a strengthening of managerial positions and an emphasis of “strategic profiles” of universities); centralizing and decentralizing tendencies and tensions in between (where centralization at the university level is common); international comparisons suggest that there are significant differences across countries in terms of where collegiality happens and to what extent there is a decentralization or centralization on a national or state level. Common themes would appear to be a growing and professionalized administration which may be influencing some changes in the nature of collegiality, and a number of studies suggested academic colleagues’ spheres of influence were moving from decision making to consultation. The initial empirical work also highlighted shortening temporalities and a clear expansion of planning – mostly formed from an administrative base.
When considering collegiality specifically, there are a number of interesting developments including redefinitions of ‘collegiality’, and in some ways of the university, and these issues relate to questions of historical development and the likely longer-term consequences of changing ideas for governing universities, but also the impact of Covid-19 on the Higher Education sector and the nature of collegiality and university governance in particular.
The sub-plenary will be hosted by Rick Delbridge and Paolo Quattrone with presentations to promote discussion as follows:

  • Introduction by Kerstin Sahlin and Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist: University Collegiality in Transformation:
    Collegiality is an institution of self-governance, that includes formal roles, structures for decision-making, normative and cognitive underpinnings of identities and purposes, and specific practices. Studies of collegiality then, need to capture structures and rules as well as identities, norms, purposes and practices. A distinction between vertical and horizontal collegiality, enable insights in how these dimensions balance and support each other.

  • Jakov Jandrić: Sustaining a Collegiate Environment: Colleagueship, Community and Choice at an Anonymous Business School
    This exploration of initial responses to the COVID-19 pandemic at a UK business school uncovers how, in a moment of crisis, collegiality was key to overcoming barriers between hierarchical levels and business functions. Academic response to the crisis shows how collegiality was central to academic self-organizing, successfully moderating the negative impacts on students, and regaining a sense of shared purpose in what universities do. Has this window of opportunity for greater local autonomy in universities closed

  • Mike Lounsbury: An Unsettling Crisis of Collegial Governance: Possibilities for Resisting Corporatization
    Another example of how collegiality is challenged but also revitalized is an investigation of a corporatized restructuring that occurred in a large North American university. While initial efforts to resist aspects of the corporatized restructuring at the University-level failed, more localized mobilizations by faculty have begun to gain traction in mitigating against the extremes of corporatization. The more recent efforts of mobilization focused on nourishing horizontal forms of collegiality provide hope for the rejuvenation of collegial governance and faculty authority.

  • François B. van Schalkwyk: On the ‘Varieties of Collegiality’
    The dynamic of collegiality has not been unfolding in the same way within or across universities and seems to have been dependent on which institutional and organizational level these developments took place, as well as national conditions that beset different universities. By focusing on varieties of collegiality, the contextual settings and different discourses surrounding collegial practices can be conceptualised and explored. This presentation will focus specifically on the case of South Africa to foreground varieties of collegiality that emerge in diverse contexts.

  • Conclusion: We end with a discussion on the maintenance of collegiality and (future) varieties of collegiality. In this we will bring results from mentimeter survey conducted within the room. This will also lead to the discussion on future research topics.

The sub-plenary will complement the Colloquium theme of ‘Organizing for the Good Life’ in examining the significance of collegiality in an organizational good life that is ‘a collective construct that encompasses community resilience and progress, social equality and inclusion’. Moreover, the research reflects the colloquium’s concerns with both legacy and imagination, examining both how universities histories, cultural values and social contexts inform the nature of collegiality and how that is being shaped by current developments and concerns. While the primary focus of the sub plenary is higher education, the session will also provide the opportunity for some reflections on how notions of collegiality offer alternative perspectives for organizing beyond the academy. On this latter point, we will return to previous organizational theorizing that has considered universities as metaphors for organizing lives and consider how we may learn to live in more collegiate ways.

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist is Professor in Organization Theory at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has regularly co-convened EGOS sub-themes and was part of the organizing committee of the EGOS Colloquium 2011 in Gothenburg.
Rick Delbridge is Professor of Organizational Analysis at Cardiff University, United Kingdom. He has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes, guest edited several issues of Organization Studies and received the Roland Calori Award in 2019.

Jakov Jandrić is The Nick Oliver Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom. His work is regularly presented at EGOS annual Colloquiua.
Michael Lounsbury is Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management at the University of Alberta, Canada. He has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes and PDWs over the years. Michael has served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.
Paolo Quattrone is Professor of Accounting, Governance and Society and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Investment Risk at the Alliance Manchester Business School, United Kingdom. A regular EGOSian, he sat on the organizing committee of the EGOS Colloquium 2018 in Edinburgh. Paolo is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.
Kerstin Sahlin is Professor of Organization Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden. In 2020, she was appointed an EGOS Honorary Member of EGOS. Kerstin has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes over the years.

François B. van Schalkwyk is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. This will be his maiden contribution to an EGOS sub-plenary.