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Academic Institutions in Search of Quality: Local Orders and Global Standards

  • Paradeise, Catherine
  • Thoenig, Jean-Claude

Quality judgements in terms of academic standards of excellence required by external stakeholders such as labour markets and steering hierarchies obviously exert strong pressure on universities. Do they generate an ‘iron cage’ effect, imposing a passive and uniform conformity on global standards? The paper examines the organization of higher education and research set-ups with a strong lens. What does academic quality actually mean when observed in the field? How do universities and their subunits – professional schools, colleges, etc. – actually achieve what they call quality? A methodological and analytical framework is tested. Three sociological concepts – diversity, recognition and local order – make it possible to build four ideal types applicable to comparative inquiry. Such a typology identifies the interdependencies existing between how they position themselves with respect to quality dimensions and internal organizational measures. The paper contributes to a broader organizational study agenda: how do local orders face and deal with market and hierarchy dynamics in a global world of apparently increasing standardization under pressure from soft power. It questions the effect of the ‘iron cage’ hypothesis. It lists a series of changing patterns or dynamics between types of universities in terms of quality sensitivity, fabrication and content. Diversity and standardization in fact coexist.

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Paper provided by Paris Dauphine University in its series Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine with number 123456789/12525.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Organization Studies, 2013, Vol. 34, no. 2. pp. 189-218.Length: 29 pages
Handle: RePEc:dau:papers:123456789/12525
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  1. Maria Nedeva & Rebecca Boden, 2006. "Changing Science: The Advent of Neo-liberalism," Prometheus, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(3), pages 269-281.
  2. Thoenig, Jean-Claude, 2007. "Organisation," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/995, Paris Dauphine University.
  3. Edward Lorenz, 2001. "Models of Cognition, the Contextualisation of Knowledge and Organisational Theory," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 307-330, September.
  4. Durand, Thomas & Dameron, Stéphanie, 2011. "Where Have All the Business Schools Gone?," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/8445, Paris Dauphine University.
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