Sub-theme 40: Universities in Unsettled Times: Effects of Evaluations, Accreditations and Rankings

Lars Engwall
Uppsala University, Sweden
Alfred Kieser
Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany
Richard Whitley
Manchester Business School, UK

Call for Papers

Since World War II political leaders in a large number of countries have had ambitions to increase the competitiveness of their nations by means of higher education and research. In this way, education and science policy has developed into a modern defense policy. This in turn has implied that both the number of institutions of higher education and research as well as the number of students world-wide has grown significantly. As a result, the competition for students, faculty and resources has become more intense – a circumstance that has created a demand for differentiation. Students, faculty and providers of resources have thus become very eager to acquire knowledge about the various institutions, i.e. knowledge on the extent in which they

  • pave the way for future careers?
  • present front-line research results?
  • use resources in an efficient way?

At the same time, the various institutions have been as eager to show their excellence in terms of education, research and efficiency. These interests both from stakeholders of universities and the universities themselves have prepared the way for three significant features of the modern academic world: evaluations, accreditations and rankings. For all three of them a strong emphasis of publishing in high prestige journals can be observed.

Although universities themselves have been highly instrumental for the development of these methods of scrutiny, critical voices are heard more and more regarding their effects. Questions that are posed are for instance:

  • What are the unintended effects of performance measures in science?
  • Are performance measures in science and pay for performance schemes driving out intrinsic motivation of researchers?
  • Is there something like an unbiased ranking?
  • Are rankings killing innovative research?
  • Are young researchers more oriented towards the publication in specific journals than towards a deep interest in a specific research problem?
  • Is the publishing race leading to an overflow of academic information and a fragmentation through the forming of disciplines, sub-disciplines and invisible colleges?

Questions such as these will be addressed within this sub-theme, which will focus on the governance of modern universities in general and their interaction with stakeholders in particular.


The sub-theme is intended to bring together EGOSians with a research interest in institutions of higher education and research with different perspectives on the above described development. The convenors will welcome both theoretical contributions and empirical ones. For the latter, international comparisons and perspectives will be particularly appreciated. In addition, papers providing an analysis of possible ways to redesign universities and to avoid the negative effects of evaluations, accreditations and rankings will be valuable for this sub-theme.


Lars Engwall is Senior Professor at the Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden. His research has been directed towards the dynamics of industries and organizations as well as the creation and diffusion of management knowledge through consultants, media and academic institutions.
Alfred Kieser is Professor Emeritus, Mannheim University, and Professor of Management Theory, Zeppelin University, Germany. His research interests include the history of organizations, organizational evolution, cross-cultural comparisons of organizations with an emphasis on Britain and Germany, and organizational learning.
Richard Whitley is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Sociology at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK. Recent authored and edited books include: "Capitalisms and Capitalism in the Twenty First Century" (2012); "Reconfiguring Knowledge Production" (2010); "Business Systems and Organizational Capabilities" (2007); "Changing Capitalisms?" (2005); "The Multinational Firm" (2001); "Divergent Capitalisms" (1999) (all published by Oxford University Press), and "The Changing Governance of the Sciences" (2007, Springer); "Competing Capitalisms" (2002, Edward Elgar). In 1998–99 he served as the Chair of EGOS and in 1999–2000 was the President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-economics. In 2007 he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. Current research interests include the study of how changing institutional regimes are affecting business systems in East Asia, the nature of semi-globalisation and its consequences for the governance and behaviour of firms, and how the changing governance of public science systems and universities is affecting scientific innovations in different countries.