Sub-Plenary 1-1

Collegiality in Higher Education and Beyond:
Rethinking the Organized World

When:  Thursday, July 6, 2023, 16:00–17:30 CEST
Where: [tba]

Rick Delbridge, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Michael Lounsbury, University of Alberta, Canada
Paolo Quattrone, The University Manchester, United Kingdom
Kerstin Sahlin, Uppsala University, Sweden

This sub-plenary will feature four presentations which will in turn set out the concept of collegiality and its significance in higher education, present findings from an international project which has been studying various aspects of collegiality, and then provide some reflections on how notions of collegiality offer alternative perspectives for organizing within and beyond the academy. On this latter point, we will return to previous organizational theorizing that has considered universities as metaphors for organizing lives and consider how we may learn to live in more collegiate ways. Our intention is to engage the audience in a discussion of their experiences and imaginings as well as to present our own research and theorizing.

The higher education and research system can be seen as both accommodating and reproducing a continuous dilemma. On the one hand, following Humboldtian ideals, research and higher education is expected to be run by autonomous interrelated academic communities. This is often described as collegial governance. On the other hand, research and higher education is an instrument for the fulfilment of certain goals external to the academic community. Governance and control are then tailored as means to fulfil these. In practice those forms of governance tend to be formed in line with bureaucratic or managerial models. Governance modes not only reflect the missions of higher education and research, governance modes also impact on those missions. They are shaped by national institutional contexts and EGOS members will achieve their own experiences of how these are made manifest. Internationally, higher education (HE) has seen patterns of change in the relative emphases on these governance models.
The sub-plenary team is part of an international network of researchers led by Kerstin Sahlin and Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist that is researching collegiality in contemporary HE, including the impact of the pandemic and developments subsequently.
Previous research on university governance, including work conducted by the network, has raised the following issues as part of the HE context within which the pandemic has had to be handled: rationalization and organizing where universities clearly are shaped increasingly as organizational actors (and with this has come a strengthening of managerial positions and an emphasis of “strategic profiles” of universities); centralizing and decentralizing tendencies and tensions in between (where centralization at the university level seems quite common); international comparisons suggest that there are significant differences across countries in terms of where collegiality happens and to what extent there is a decentralization or centralization on a national or state level. Common themes would appear to be a growing and professionalized administration which may be influencing some changes in the nature of collegiality, and a number of studies suggested academic colleagues’ spheres of influence were moving from decision making to consultation. The initial empirical work also highlighted shortening temporalities and a clear expansion of planning – mostly formed from an administrative base.

When considering collegiality specifically, there are a number of interesting developments including redefinitions of ‘collegiality’, and in some ways of the university, and these issues relate to questions of historical development and the likely longer-term consequences of the impact of Covid-19 on the HE sector in general and the nature of collegiality and university governance in particular.

The key points for discussion that will be considered in the session are:

  1. From greater collegiality to increased regulation?
    Initial responses have produced a sense of collegiality with colleagues commenting on how barriers between hierarchical levels and business functions were easily overcome, regaining a sense of shared purpose in what universities do. Has this window of opportunity for greater local autonomy in universities closed?

  2. From performance evaluation to well-being considerations?
    A positive initial effect of the pandemic was reported to be a shift in focus from performance evaluation to attention to well-being. ‘Non-performing’ staff have become colleagues with pressing family and personal problems who need help to function in stressful circumstances. The question is whether this ‘equalizing’ dynamic will survive.

  3. PCollegiality: where and when?
    The dynamic of points 1 and 2 has not been unfolding in the same way within or across universities and seems to have been dependent on which institutional and organizational level these developments took place.

The sub-plenary will complement the Colloquium theme “Organizing for the Good Life” in examining the significance of collegiality in an organizational good life that is ‘a collective construct that encompasses community resilience and progress, social equality and inclusion’. Moreover, the research reflects the Colloquium’s concerns with both legacy and imagination, examining both how HEIs histories, cultural values and social contexts inform the nature of collegiality and how that is being shaped by current developments and concerns.

Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist is Professor in Organization Theory at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She has regularly co-convened EGOS sub-themes and was part of the organizing committee of the EGOS Colloquium 2011 in Gothenburg.
Rick Delbridge is Professor of Organizational Analysis at Cardiff University, United Kingdom. He has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes, guest edited several issues of Organization Studies and received the Roland Calori Award in 2019.
Michael Lounsbury is Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management at the University of Alberta, Canada. He has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes and paper development workshops over the years. Michael has served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.
Paolo Quattrone is Professor of Accounting, Governance and Society and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Investment Risk at the Alliance Manchester Business School, United Kingdom. A regular EGOSian, he sat on the organizing committee of the EGOS Colloquium 2018 in Edinburgh. Paolo is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.
Kerstin Sahlin is Professor of Organization Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden. In 2020, she was appointed an EGOS Honorary Member of EGOS. Kerstin has co-convened a number of EGOS sub-themes over the years.