Research & Projects

RePort: Multi-level control of university-specific resource portfolios: from the professional bureaucracy to collaborative knowledge networks


Current debates on the reform of the (German) higher education system address fundamental changes in the organization and management of universities. Extended autonomy and global budgets lead to the adoption of new principles of governing universities in order to strengthen organizational capacities. The latter are necessary for universities to become more competitive in their core activities of research and teaching, as well as to further exploit fields of strategic action such as internationalization, equalization, promotion of young researchers or knowledge- and technology transfer.
In exchange for expanded autonomy in universities, governmental agencies demand reports of effective allocation of resources. Hence, performance is contracted by means of goal attainments and defined standards. Competitive resource allocation is expected to create incentives of increased performance. These instruments follow the idea of repelling bureaucratic structures by establishing quasi-markets through the implementation of market principles.
This approach involves potential problems: principles of the market economy reduce governance and control to financial resources and stimulate internal competition for the resources. This contains the danger of market failure within organizations. The stronger internal competition is institutionalized, the weaker the willingness of actors and entities to collaborate. Collaboration is a necessary condition for creativity and innovative behavior, and hence a condition for the production of scientific goods. Further, the new governance and control approach neglects interdependencies of its specific instruments. For example, contradictions appear between criteria of goal- and performance attainments and performance-oriented resource allocation.
The challenge lies in developing an effective resource management and control by solving the failures of bureaucratic planning, without obtaining market failure through the backdoor. The research project RePort addresses this task and is divided into several .subprojects.

The joint project together with Prof. Jetta Frost is separated into three subprojects:
Subproject 1: Strategic Management of Universities (Markus Reihlen, Leuphana University)
Subproject 2: Organization and Governance of Universities (Jetta Frost, University of Hamburg)
Subproject 3: Decision Processes (Jetta Frost, University of Hamburg)

Research Partner: Prof. Dr. Jetta Frost, Lehrstuhl Organisation und Unternehmensführung, Universität Hamburg

Project 1: Strategic Management of Universities

With the raise of managed education a number of more fundamental reforms based on market principles and a managerial ideology have been introduced in the German system of higher education. Questions of leveraging the university’s intellectual, social, and symbolic capital for strategic positioning have become key issues in competing for research funding, high quality students, international cooperation partners and forging industry-university links. So far, strategic management concepts have only hesitantly been introduced for the investigation and reflection of managerial practices in universities. The research project investigates the nature and consequences of managed education by following a multi-level analysis. Such an analysis entails first the level of the higher education field involving actors, logics, and governing systems, as well as processes of change; second the level of the university and especially the strategic management of the emerging archetype of the entrepreneurial university and its transformation processes.

The Subproject Strategic Management consists of further four subprojects.