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Institutional change and professional practices: The case of French doctoral education


  • Aubépine Dahan

    () (LATTS - Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés - UPEM - Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Vincent Mangematin

    () (GAEL - Laboratoire d'Economie Appliquée de Grenoble - UPMF - Université Pierre Mendès France - Grenoble 2 - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, MTS - Management Technologique et Strategique - Grenoble École de Management (GEM))


Based on empirical research on the effect of doctoral schools in French university, this paper analyses under which conditions the implementation of a new institution impacts work practices i.e. the ways by which individuals and collective actors perform their activity. It focuses on the micro-practices of actors, in order to shed new light on the micro-level works which put the new institution into action. The paper contributes to existing theory in three different ways. First, it shows that institutional change does not generate new practices per se. Institutional change impacts work practices if the pre-existing practices are close to the new desired norm as promoted by the new institution. It thus emphasises proximity as a main mechanism of new practice diffusion, when actors are interdependent on each other. Second, in professional contexts based on practices distant from the new desired norm, actors adopt the new institution and change their practices if they are able to solve unaddressed problems. Such a dynamic is mainly based on the creation of new organisational arrangements or tools which mediate and enable problem solving activities. Finally, it proposes a delayed and indirect effect of the introduction of the new institution. By generating new interactions among actors, the new institution creates opportunities for comparisons across professions, legitimating one amongst the several existing norms in the field. Comparison amongst actors or disciplines leads to some categorising themselves as deviants, who lose legitimacy and power in the organisation.

Suggested Citation

  • Aubépine Dahan & Vincent Mangematin, 2007. "Institutional change and professional practices: The case of French doctoral education," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00424486, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:gemptp:hal-00424486
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