Research & Projects

Strategic Transformation of Universities

The dissertation project of Ferdinand Wenzlaff under the current working title “Institutional Change of the German Higher Education System: Macro Causes and Micro Responses” aims analyzing the global change of the higher education system, capturing the German system with specific path dependencies.
The identification of causes and mechanisms of the emerging logic on the macro level has to be completed by assessing how single higher education institutions deal with macro-level change on the organizational level and how they perform strategic change. The analysis of organizational transformations in the context of field-level change addresses research gaps identified by the theoretical perspective of organizational institutionalism. In order to generate theory, data within a case study approach are collected. Participant observation, analysis of archival data and 50 qualitative Interviews with professors and administrative personnel form the core of the data.

We investigate a unique case in several ways. The case of a university transformation was formed out of a merger of a university and a polytechnic. It is so far the most successful merger and the sole of its kind in the German higher education field. Most mergers in higher education have been taken place between similar institutional types and integration is often more a facade by keeping the original organizational identity in separate organizational units. In our case, a new organization through an almost complete dissolution of former structures occurred. The emerging new university stems from an entrepreneurial institutional undertaking serving as a model university in the changing German higher education field.

Besides the theoretical aspiration, more specific practical implications can be drawn for strategic management of mergers and transformations in the higher education field, as well as more general ones with regard to professional service firms.