Table of Contents

European Universities in Transition

European Universities in Transition

Issues, Models and Cases

Edited by Carmelo Mazza, Paolo Quattrone and Angelo Riccaboni

This timely and important book provides a critical analysis of the changes and challenges that currently affect European universities. Using both theoretical contributions and applied case studies, leading experts argue that universities as institutions are in need of change – although the routes that the process may take are heterogeneous.

Chapter 1: University Reforms: The Tension between Form and Substance

Nigel Thrift

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, management and universities, organisation studies, education, management and universities


Nigel Thrift It is not just the top slot at Harvard I would turn down. It is the head of any university, in particular a successful one (Kellaway, 2006). INTRODUCTION It seems to me that the bulk of current commentary on the higher education system either consists of normative discussions of the nature of the university (of the kind that have been going on since at least the time of Cardinal Newman) or of simply elaborating on what is going on in universities currently, whether that be internationalization or quality assurance, the latest twists and turns of government policy on research, or what it means to be entrepreneurial. I want to take a somewhat different tack by focusing on why the ‘management’ of higher education has become such a hot topic in Europe. University reform is clearly in the air in Europe. It is apparent that university systems are going in roughly the same direction in many European countries, although against the background of sometimes radically different national higher education systems. The general direction is well put in several European Commission documents that have been published recently, all of which argue for the modernization of European universities and all of which espouse better ‘management’ as a necessary nostrum to achieve an exalted modernized economic state. But why does ‘management’ have such a central place as part of this modernization agenda? I want to begin to explain the centrality of management by addressing in a slightly different way...

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