Local Professional Managers in Globalized Organizations
Higher education has always been international but in the last years it became more and more global. The number of foreign students dramatically grew, English – for better or for worse – has become a universal language for science, competition for resources, talents and ideas has increased and world rankings have impacted the national representations each country had on its own university system. Many of the reforms that were led in European countries embraced these various evolutions and tried to tackle them by promoting project-based research, introducing performance-based budgets, identifying top institutions and concentrating resources on them, fostering international recruitments of students and academics etc.
This is clearly the case in France where the number of reforms launched since the mid 2000s is as impressive as the rather radical new orientations they followed in order to transform the French higher education landscape. At the national level, the policy makers (ministers, directors of the ministerial administration, coopted academics that influenced the reforms…) agitate the risk of loosing positions on this globalized scene in order to justify the need for change.
The question addressed in this contribution deals with the diffusion of these views among the academic profession, and more specifically on academics engaged in the management of their own university.
This contribution will be based on a reanalysis of the interviews led with presidents, vice-presidents and deans in French universities for a study on the governance of their institution and for a study on the Grand Emprunt, a policy for excellence in higher education. Most of these universities are based in the Province: one did not compete for the policy for excellence, four tried being labeled as “Idex” (initiative of excellence, but failed, the others succeeded and belong to the same Idex. Finally one is based in Paris and also belongs to an Idex.
We are interested in their views, as local professional managers, on the transformation of higher education. Do they perceive evolutions and which one? Do they share the same views? How do they tackle the globalization of higher education? Is there a link between their understanding of the transformations and their acceptation and adhesion to the reforms? Can we identify explanations for their representations and beliefs and for their eventual variations?
By doing so we contribute to the study of the transformation of professions and more precisely of the academic profession. While some studies stress the dismissal of the academic profession and the tensions between academics and policy-makers, or between academic and managerial logics, others rather conclude to the complexity of the academic profession as a group and to its increasing lack of coherence and cohesion. By looking at the representations of local academic leaders on the global issues pertaining to higher education, we shall discuss these different perspectives and see how global are local managers.