The question is clear, a tad facetious, and always current; the answer is nothing short of a challenge. After 36 years of existence, some organizations are long in the tooth, others find ways to constantly re-invent themselves. EAIR is not immune to the question: If EAIR did not exist, what difference would it make to members, non-members, and other stakeholders?  What we know for sure is that a company that does not cater products or services tailored to its customers is doomed to self-inflicted euthanasia. A little bit of fear is rarely a bad motivator. What we also know is that the field of knowledge and learning is neither entirely similar to nor different from private enterprise. We, as a community, have been gullible at times, hanging our hats on fads imported from the private sector that had little traction in educational institutions (think of TQM and re-engineering as examples). Read more

Markets and Managerialism in Higher Education: enhancing diversity or promoting conformity?

Are markets and ‘managerialism’ inevitable – and also desirable, especially if we want more diversity and excellence in higher education? This is the question I plan to address in my talk to the EAIR conference in Essen in August.

Across Europe the direction of travel seems to be towards a stronger managerial culture in universities as Governments grant institutions greater operational autonomy. There are several reasons for this shift:

  • One is certainly the pressure that State budgets have come under in post-2008 ‘austerity Europe’. The hope is that by devolving management (and budgetary) responsibilities from Ministries to universities costs can be cut;
  • A second reason is the emphasis on universities as entrepreneurial organisations in the wider context of the knowledge society – especially in a competitive global economy in which Europe fears it may losing ground to more vigorous competitors (notably in east Asia);
  • A third reason is the concern that state bureaucracies, and perhaps public systems of higher education more generally, produce too much uniformity. If we want more diversity, institutions must be free to determine their own destinies. The language of the ‘market’ has invaded higher education – niche products, brands, business strategies and the rest.

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