20 Apr 2011
Missions on the move: university systems in England, New York State and California
Universities’ fundamental missions generally differ. For example, institutions can either focus on research or on teaching. Over time, these missions tend to change, and in some cases this is referred to as "mission creep". This negative epithet is reserved for universities with l imited research capacities that try to emulate research-intensive universities. In most cases, it appears to be driven by the desire to improve their position in league tables. This paper studies mission development within three different university systems (in England, New York State and California) from a resource-dependency perspective. It focuses in particular on the mission development of comprehensive four-year universities within those systems. The analysis shows that although some emulation of research-intensive universities can be observed, there is a dominant drive to build a unique brand that cannot be equated with the profile of a research-intensive institution. The paper concludes with some general observations on mission development and the need for further research.
20 Apr 2011
Danish universities in the financial crisis
Universities have always been important to national economies, but since the financial crisis of 2007-08 they have become key economic actors. Because they supply highly skilled labour and undertake basic research that enable nations to engage in global competition, they are capable of boosting production and innovation. This article explores the impact of the institutional reform of Danish universities since 2001, notably in relation to research, teaching and innovation. It also discusses how these reforms have affected universities’ capacity to stave off the financial crisis. By the time the financial crisis erupted these institutions were strong and independent, which is one reason why – so far – Denmark has fared relatively well compared to other European countries. If its universities are to maintain this position they will need to be continuously reformed, but change needs to go hand-in-hand with greater trust in the reform process by government and politicians.
20 Apr 2011
Assessing the effects of four budget-balancing strategies in higher education
This paper compares four short- and medium-term strategies available to public higher education to balance budgets in the face of major cutbacks in public funding. These strategies include: capping enrolments, changing the enrolment mix, raising prices and increasing enrolments without raising prices. The paper assesses the likely effects of these four strategies on the performance dimensions of participation, equity, productivity and quality. Some of the key political and economic considerations that do and should inform the decisions of institutional leaders are then considered. We conclude that there are fundamental inadequacies in our understanding of the possible impacts of changing enrolments on marginal costs. This means that higher education system and institutional leaders may not be fully and rationally exploring the range of options available to balance their budgets in the face of recession-driven cutbacks; in particular, they may not adequately consider the possibility of increasing enrolments without increasing fees.
20 Apr 2011
The democratisation of access and success in higher education
Given that higher education systems everywhere have opened to the masses, this paper analyses to what extent this phenomenon has really been accompanied by an effective democratisation of access and success in Portugal and Brazil. It looks at the expansion of higher education and discusses how the political system and higher education institutions have responded to the need for better educated populations and increased demand for tertiary education. Equity of access is analysed by comparing the ratio of candidates from different socio-economic backgrounds to overall capacity. This indicates that the apparent democratisation of academic access is in fact only relative; on this basis, there are grounds for concern as disadvantaged social backgrounds seem to generate high rates of academic failure and dropout.
20 Apr 2011
Differences between public and private universities' fields of study in Argentina
The literature on private higher education has identified striking differences between the public and private sectors in terms of fields of study. For example, unlike their public counterparts, private universities have traditionally specialised in the social sciences and humanities. This paper explores the university market in Argentina to see if these differences still persist today, or if they have blurred over time. This dynamic is studied from the perspective of both supply (the percentage of institutions offering a specific degree programme) and demand (student enrolments). Clearly, both sectors are venturing further and further into each other’s traditional domains.
20 Apr 2011
Quality assured assessment processes
Medical education is not exempt from the increasing societal expectations of accountability and this is evidenced by an increasing number of litigation cases by students who are dissatisfied with their assessment. The time and monetary costs of student appeals makes it imperative that medical schools adopt robust quality assured assessment processes. The success of these processes depends on the ability of faculty to determine the necessary changes required and manage the change process. Openness to change is critical; therefore, identifying the processes that facilitate staff openness constitutes an important step in better understanding how higher education institutions can ensure that staff members are willing to support and engage in change initiatives. This paper examines the contribution of the three attributes of the change model (content, process and context) in relation to staff openness to the quality assurance processes of assessment changes that were implemented at the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine.