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


  • Catherine Paradeise

    (IFRIS - IFRIS - Institut Francilien Recherche Innovation Société)

  • Jean-Claude Thoenig

    (DRM - Dauphine Recherches en Management - Université Paris-Dauphine - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


Quality judgments 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, 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 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Catherine Paradeise & Jean-Claude Thoenig, 2013. "Academic Institutions in Search of Quality: Local Orders and Global Standards," Post-Print halshs-00871625, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00871625
    DOI: 10.1177/0170840612473550
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:dau:papers:123456789/995 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Edward Lorenz, 2001. "Models of Cognition, the Contextualisation of Knowledge and Organisational Theory," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 5(3), pages 307-330, September.
    3. Maria Nedeva & Rebecca Boden, 2006. "Changing Science: The Advent of Neo-liberalism," Prometheus, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(3), pages 269-281.
    4. repec:dau:papers:123456789/8445 is not listed on IDEAS
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:11:p:2137-:d:119666 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:infome:v:12:y:2018:i:1:p:365-384 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:9:p:1666-1680 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Leporia, Benedetto & Geuna, Aldo & Mira, Antonietta, 2018. "Scientific Output of US and European Universities Scales Super-linearly with Resources," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201818, University of Turin.

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    Local orders; academic quality; global standardization; ideal-type approaches; organizational diversity;

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