Call for Papers
Few organizational forms can claim such long time legacy as the university. The oldest ones date back to the medieval times
and since then − particularly after the Second World War − a large number of followers were established. However, the present
day universities are quite different from those of the Middle Ages. By the passage of time, universities have regularly faced
profound crises and its longevity is related to their capacity in resisting turbulent times. Universities have been adapting
and evolving, nevertheless never renouncing to what it was before and what makes it an institution. The production and the
diffusion of knowledge are central and characterize what the university is, and was.
This mix of legacy and evolution has been important for the success of the university as organizational form in the past. As universities presently are facing turbulent times, it is appropriate to consider whether this positive development will continue. A number of issues are relevant in that context.
First, the increasing populism in the world is a serious threat to universities and their activities. Various challenges of research and higher education have thus eroded the earlier strong trust in academia. Obviously, scientific frauds have reinforced this development.
Second, the academic freedom is under threat. It is traditionally a fundamental characteristic of academia. However, in recent times, there are sign of increasing efforts by politicians to influence the direction of research as well as the contents of education. In some countries, this has even implied the dismissal of controversial faculty members, and in the worst cases even imprisoning.
Third, related to the academic freedom, the traditional governance form, collegiality, has eroded. An important factor behind this is the dominance of large hierarchical corporations in modern societies, thereby making them role models for others. While universities traditionally are entrepreneurial bottom-up organizations, they have nowadays expectations to act as top-down organizations with pronounced strategies.
Fourth, traditional universities are under increasing competition. The number of academic institutions is continuously growing in the world. As a result, the rivalry in relation to students, faculty and financial resources gets tougher. In addition, also other actors – research institutes, and various commercial actors − pursue research and provide higher education, thereby reinforcing the competition.
Fifth, related to the competition, is the digitalization of society. This means opportunities for universities in terms of information retrieval and communication, but also challenges of traditional forms of education. Some have even questioned whether universities can exist in a world where digital solutions are available for collaboration between researchers as well as for the education of students.
Against the above backdrop, the sub-theme aims to shed light on the extent to which these challenges to universities are occurring and how universities are handling them. Both conceptual and empirical papers are invited. We, particularly but not only, welcome submissions that examine:
- Populism and universities.
- Challenges of academic freedom.
- Challenges of collegiality.
- The new competition of universities.
- Digitalization and universities.
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