Forum Tracks

Under Pressure?
Higher Education Institutions Coping With Multiple Challenges

The Forum will be hosted by University of Porto

Governance and Management

Track Chairs:
Amélia Veiga • CIPES & A3ES, Portugal and Rosalind Pritchard • University of Ulster, United Kingdom.

In a globalized and competitive world, higher education institutions (HEIs) are under increasing pressure to attract funding, students & qualified staff and to perform high quality research. These pressures can affect HEIs’ processes and structures thereby impacting on their governance and management. Economic and financial imperatives may become so dominant that they take precedence over the core tasks of HEIs and the humane treatment of those who carry them out. Inability to place HEIs on a secure financial footing can result in institutional, departmental or subject-unit failure with concomitant redundancies. Pressure to profile the institution nationally and internationally may need a strengthened steering core which in turn requires new staffing structures and even the re-conceptualisation of Constitutions and Statutes. The revised forms may privilege senior management’s power rather than introduce more democratic regimes for staff. Pressure for accountability may lead to a re-definition of the relationship with stakeholders, some of whom may increase in dominance. In this track, presenters are invited to discuss the impact of pressure on governance structures and leadership roles. We welcome papers addressing key themes such as:

  • What are the major challenges for various levels of institutional functioning (international; national; local)? Where do these challenges come from and how do strategic governance and management structures respond to this pressure?
  • What battles are the HEI constituencies fighting to influence governance and management structures and processes? What are the consequences for their governance?
  • How does governance connect with notions of academic community, freedom and collaboration?
  • How does the pressure to be globally competitive affect HEIs’ leadership roles and job descriptions? How is this response manifested in governance structures?
Quality Management

Track Chairs:
Patricia Moura e Sá • University of Coimbra, Portugal and Antigoni Papadimitriou • John Hopkins University, USA.

Quality management is advocated by policy-makers and consultants because it is assumed that a more systematic and managerial approach in higher education institutions will help to improve their performance. Quality management is expected to prioritize the higher education institutions’ agenda and to make decisions for the improvement of its processes and products. In an era in which higher education institutions around the world continually feel pressure to change, quality management is an important instrument to adapt to their changing environment. Attention to value creation processes and to the role of human capital in supporting sustainable excellence is particularly important in this regard.

Building strong and successful relationships with stakeholders is essential if education institutions are to fully fulfil their mission within the so-called “knowledge triangle” (EC, 2005), which covers three poles: education, research and innovation. With this purpose in mind, institutions are increasingly putting efforts in the design and development of mechanisms, methodologies and systems that they expect to be capable of enhance stakeholders’ trust. The launching of new or substantially revised principles of excellence  and guidelines together with the emergence of new service delivery modes raise both opportunities and challenges that need to be discussed by researchers, practitioners, policy makers, as well as addressed by higher education institutions.

For this track, empirical, practical and theoretical-conceptual contributions are welcome. Papers could respond (but are not restricted) to the following questions:

  • What type of pressures (coercive, normative, mimetic) higher education institutions felt to adopt quality management initiatives? What has been the role of leadership in this regard?
  • What kind of changes (if any) has quality management produced in the way higher education promotes teaching, research and services excellence?
  • Does quality management require or increase professionalization in higher education management and governance?
  • Is quality management contributing to more transparency?
  • Has quality management been fostering or dissuading innovation in higher education?
  • What impacts have standards, audits, accreditation and other quality mechanisms produced on higher education institutions and on education systems as a whole?
Strategy and Strategizing

Track Chair:
Pedro Saraiva • University of Coimbra, Portugal

It is well known that Higher Education Institutions (HEI), once created, seem to be able to survive for a long period of time, and even many centuries. This means that they have coped with many changes, constantly adapting, implicitly or explicitly, their strategies to the surrounding environments. However, present times face HEI with faster than ever before dynamics, as well as increasing global competition, or the emergence of new ways to support teaching and learning activities (e.g. MOOC). Therefore, the world is facing tremendous challenges, but in particular Higher Education (HE) and its institutions must address them with ambitious, clear and pragmatic strategies, strategic thinking and deployment. More than just having documented strategic plans, strategizing as a mindset and permanent way of looking into HE and being a HEI, always aiming to understand and build not just the present but also the future, sometimes with disruptive ambitions, targets and initiatives, has never been as important as today for the sustainable success of HE and HEI.

  • Given this overall scope, papers submitted to this track may explore namely some of the following topics:
  • Incorporation of innovative and disruptive approaches for strategic design and its implementation in HE and HEI;
  • Role of stakeholders in the strategic definition and implementation in HE and HEI;
  • How does “culture eat strategy for breakfast” in HE and HEI;
  • Conventional strategic planning versus strategic thinking and strategizing in HE and HEI;
  • Strategy deployment and alignment, from national to regional or local HE policies, and then from public policies to each HEI, its faculties, departments and people;
  • Incentives, rewards, recognitions, positive and negative reinforcement options to promote the implementation of HE and HEI strategies;
  • Scoreboards and ways to monitor the progress made according to the strategies chosen for HE and HEI;
  • Relationship between prospective studies and futuristic scenarios with regards to strategizing in HE and HEI;
  • Practical applications of strategy and strategizing in HE and HEI.
Teaching and Learning

Track Chairs:
Helena Araújo • CIIE, Portugal and Carlinda Leite • University of Porto, Portugal.

Higher Education policies after the Bologna process have pointed that teaching should be organised to promote lifelong learning based on processes coming from students’ autonomy as learning outcomes. At the same time, universities are recognised as institutions for the production of new knowledge and in that way teaching should be oriented to this production.

In this new emphasis learning and the processes of research are strongly connected. Several authors stress the relevance of learning communities where lecturers and students are collectively involved in building new knowledge through research processes. Certainly, universities should continue to give attention to existing knowledge to develop skills of pursuing research processes as well as skills of interpreting research diverse situations. Teaching needs to be aware of this relevance as well. The main difference towards the traditional view of teaching as knowledge transmission is that this is a starting point and not the core of the teaching-learning relation.

Given this overall scope, Track 4 searches for submissions (theoretical papers, literature reviews, empirical papers, case studies) focused on teaching and learning, exploring namely some of the following topics:

  • Policies related to teaching and learning in higher education
  • The place of teaching in university careers
  • The embodiment of research in teaching-learning processes
  • Possibilities and limits for teaching based on the relationship teaching-learning-research
  • The use of technology in higher education teaching and learning
  • Formative assessment as a way to improve learning
  • Scenarios of pedagogical work in higher education
Regional Innovation

Track Chair:
Carlos Rodrigues • GOVCOPP & University of Aveiro, Portugal

The part universities can play in the development dynamics of their regions of location emerges as a prominent dimension of what the literature often refers to as the new social contract between academia and society, which, in short, has added to teaching and research a third academic mission, the one of socioeconomic development agent. The lively debate on the third academic mission gave rise to a consensual view on the increased complexity in which universities operate and the inherent institutional and organizational challenges they face. However, the discussion on the nature, extent and effects of change in academia are controversial and thus far from resolved.

The debate, as well as controversy, gains particular outlines when bringing geography into the equation. Universities are commonly regarded as key agents in regional development processes. The argument is that they can provide regions with important development resources, from technologies and skills enhancing the capacity of regional firms to compete in global markets, to inputs and perspectives improving the regional policy and practice framework conditions for innovation-driven development.

The acknowledgment of territorial development differentiation, its causes and implications, taken together with the proposition that the part academia plays in the promotion of regional innovation capacities entails a diversity of domains and is shaped by contextual framework conditions, ground the assumption that the role of universities varies in accordance to the qualities of regional systems of innovation. This implies that different impacts are exerted by the university-region nexus, different institutional and organizational challenges are raised to academia, and different types and amounts of eventual mutual benefits are reaped.

Under this conceptual framework, Track 5 searches for submissions (theoretical papers, literature reviews, empirical papers, case studies) that attempt to address the diversity of challenges faced by universities engaged in innovation-driven regional development processes, including (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • Universities in smart specialisation strategies
  • Universities, regional innovation and the nth helix models
  • The institutional/organizational challenges of the university-region nexus
  • Public policy, regional innovation and the role of universities
  • Universities, innovation and the geographies of context
  • The organizational settings of (territorialised) technology transfer
  • Universities as regional innovation capacity builders

Track Chairs:
Ben Jongbloed and Hans Vossensteyn • CHEPS and University of Twente, the Netherlands

Given the multitude of demands placed on higher education today, the stagnant public funding and a continued student demand, the pressure on higher education institutions is rising. What are new ways to boost academic productivity; for encouraging these institutions to provide innovative, high-quality, lower-cost forms of teaching and instruction? What are sustainable finance models for a system that increases attainment for all students (but particularly for low income students and students from minorities)? And how can the pressure to produce high-quality, high-impact research outputs be handled, given the fact that excellent researchers demand competitive salaries and high-class research facilities?

This track seeks contributions that provide examples of financing options – on the national and institutional level – that make higher education both more affordable and more innovative. Papers might address issues such as encouraging universities to search for other forms of funding, including the diversification of funding sources by increasing or introducing student fees, joining up with the business world or collaborating with other higher education providers and research institutes. Often, this will require a change of strategy – a realigning of incentives and a re-targeting of existing resources to make the system or institution more cost effective, to increase graduation rates or to specialize in areas of proven strengths. Given that funding according to performance or quality criteria, rather than input criteria, is on the rise in many countries, this EAIR conference track welcomes papers that critically discuss the implications of performance-based funding, including its potential perverse effects.

This Funding Track seeks to host papers that highlight how the higher education institutions’ resourcing strategies, financial management and internal lives are reshaped in response to the mounting pressures and expectations. Therefore, papers can be of a descriptive character, but we also welcome papers that reflect on these issues from a theoretical perspective, reflecting on the question of how (and how well) higher education institutions, given their resource constraints and multiple ambitions, can continue carrying out their role in meeting demands and creating public value.


Track Chair:
Teresa Carvalho • University of Aveiro & CIPES, Portugal

The social role of Higher Education (HE) in society has been questioned in the last decades by the knowledge society. This metaphor, or narrative, is used to celebrate knowledge as a basic economic resource in contemporaneous societies. In this context, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been assigned a key place within this changing context, even if these institutions lost the almost exclusiveness that they used to have in knowledge production and dissemination. These tendencies bring important challenges to academics as a professional group. Changes in working conditions and in the traditional power and prestige that the profession had in society raises the hypothesis of the emergence of deprofessionalization processes. The increasing competition to enter into the career is followed by similar processes to ascend along the career paths leading to a diversification in internal segmentation processes. The substitution of collegial models by top-down ones concentrates power in top and middle positions and are said to reconfigure ‘academic-managers’ roles. Globalization, internationalization and Europeanization play an important role with academics having an increasing access to information and, probably most important, being increasingly expected to engage in global research networks and collaborate with researchers all over the world; to engage in commercial activities, and to contribute to a global academic community by publishing in international top journals, apply for jobs in an academic global labor market and being evaluated for promotion and tenure against academics globally. Simultaneously, academics are also expected to innovate in their teaching and to engage in activities and services to society, raising important issues concerning the rhythms of academic life. Simultaneously, the managerial culture is expected to break down traditional values of collegiality questioning academics professionalism. The funding conditions of knowledge production permeate what to research and how to research in the same way as teaching is assumed as being more oriented to employability and students are considered as consumers. Uncertainty and ambiguity associated with obtaining a PhD lead to a complex division of work in HEIs with potential to create new professional groups (as research career in some European countries exemplifies) and, simultaneously, new and hybrid roles, associated with a dominant managerial environment, leading to blurring boundaries between academics and administrators/managers and questioning academics’ jurisdictional arena. However, academics have increased their qualifications all over the world; more open, transparent and objective rules are now widely known to access or ascend in the career, turning its paths less mysterious than previously and knowledge production is more oriented to society breaking the ivory tower.

The aim of this track is to explore changes in professions in academia within knowledge society, both theoretically and empirically. In this context some of the research questions and issues that can be addressed are:

  • How are changes framed by the knowledge society/economy affecting academic work and academic careers?
  • How can internal segmentation be characterized? Is it possible to identify the emergence of new professional groups?
  • Are boundaries being (re)defined between different professional groups in academia?
  • What has been the impact of globalization, internationalization and Europeanization in academic careers?
  • Have the academics roles in HEIs changed? And what are the psycho-social consequences of these changes?
  • How knowledge production and dissemination are changing and what are the consequences for professions in academia?
  • What are the main challenges for young academics?
  • Which opportunities do the knowledge society has to offer to the academic profession?
Performance and Assessment

Track Chairs:
Hugo Figueiredo and Ana Melo • University of Aveiro & CIPES, Portugal

Emerging from a period of relatively secluded existence, serving predominantly elite and stable national markets, often supported to a large extent by government funding, higher education institutions (HEIs) have been launched into a global market, being encouraged to become increasingly responsible for their activities, for finance and for coping with the changing environment. Although varying between countries, the reforms that HEIs across the world are undergoing have in common the adoption of managerial methodologies and approaches once exclusively adopted by the private sector, following a trend to reorganise and restructure increasingly as entrepreneurial universities. This has meant much greater reliance on performance measurement. Performance indicators have thus been introduced as guidelines of financial management, educational and scientific productivity.

In parallel, the breadth of HEIs mission(s) has also grown ever more diverse and complex. Regarding participation, the progressive internationalisation and massification of higher education in many developed economies calls for a more diverse student experience in order to accommodate for greater student heterogeneity and more diverse expectations. HEIs may then be expected, for example, to pay increasing attention to technical components of education, to context-specific and problem-solving skills or to work increasingly in collaboration with external actors. Regarding research, the drive towards greater internationalisation and its weight in academic careers coexists with a greater focus on the commercialisation of research results, which, in many cases, depends on greater engagement with local environments. Furthermore, the increasing recognition of the broader civic role of HEIs also reinforces the need to think globally but engage locally.

This track aims to explore the extent to which performance management systems hinder or promote mission diversity in higher education. Such systems clearly shape incentives within and across HEIs and are, therefore, unlikely to be neutral in allowing for the differentiation of strategic profiles. Crucially, their success depends on the ability of performance indicators to capture all dimensions that are strategically relevant to HEIs. It is unclear if this is already the case. The failure to do so, however, can result in the accumulation of perverse incentives in the system and less diversity than is desired to respond to the aforementioned challenges.

The track welcomes papers addressing such key themes such as:

  • How does the current ‘performance regime’ drive performance in HEIs?
  • Do current performance management practices and systems successfully take into account the complexity of HEIs mission(s)?
  • Are performance management systems promoting or hindering greater mission diversity within higher education systems?
  • Is the current ‘performance regime’ leading to more hierarchy and concentration of resources in higher education systems?
  • How do performance management systems balance internationalisation, commercialisation and local/national engagement agendas?
  • How can performance management systems be transformed to adequately capture the relevance of HEIs third mission activities?
  • Have performance management systems been contributing to any drift of HEIs strategies (either academic or vocational) overtime?
  • How do performance management systems interact with the legal or formal distinction of HEIs mission in binary higher education systems? Do they work as complements or substitutes?
  • Is performance diversity promoted or hindered by current funding mechanisms?