European Universities in Transition
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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.
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Chapter 2: Minerva and the Media: Universities Protecting and Promoting Themselves

Lars Engwall


1 Lars Engwall 1. UNIVERSITIES – BETWEEN POLITICS AND MARKETS On 18 September 1988 in Bologna, Vice-Chancellors of European universities signed the ‘Magna Charta Universitatum’. One fundamental principle of this text is that ‘research and teaching [in universities] must be morally and intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power’. A closer look at universities, however, reveals that this may be wishful thinking. Many universities have long since been heavily dependent on governments. First, governments protect them from competition from other knowledge organizations by authorizing their charters. Although the term ‘university’, unlike ‘bank’, is not a protected label, trust in academic institutions greatly depends on the government giving them legitimacy. In addition, universities in many countries are greatly dependent on public financing for their operations. In addition, there are an increasing number of signs that universities are also subject to pressures from the market. It is thus highly relevant to look closer at the conditions to which universities are subject, existing, as they do, at the intersection of politics and markets. The distinction between politics and markets is basic in the political science literature (see for example Lindblom, 1977), and the issue at hand is whether decisions should be made by elected politicians or via market mechanisms. Similarly, economists have focused on the most effective way to organize transactions, that is via markets or hierarchies (cf. Williamson, 1985). Like all dichotomies, the one between politics and markets and the one between markets and hierarchies leads to discussion concerning intermediary...

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