P07 Managerialism and beyond in higher education

Corresponding chair

Review group chair

  • Dominik Antonowicz (professor, Department of Science and Higher Education Research, Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun, Poland) - Dominik.Antonowicz@umk.pl


  • Susan Wright (professor, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark) 
  • Cristina Sin (integrated researcher, Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Education and Development, Lusófona University, Portugal) 
  • Jan Kohoutek (assistant professor, Department of Public and Social Policy, Charles University of Prague, and Ambis College, Czechia)


Higher education has undergone major changes in recent decades, which have significantly transformed the governance and management of higher education systems and institutions. After the expansion of higher education neither direct state control of the institutions nor uncontrolled management by the academic oligarchy was sustainable, leading to a transformation of the relationship between the state, the management and the academic community. In the new constellation, the state has been given a primarily regulatory and evaluative role, while institutions enjoy an increased autonomy and responsibility, but also accountability. These changes also reshaped the internal governance of institutions, strengthening the role of institutional management and weakening the role of collegiate governance. Greater autonomy for the management is expected to make universities "complete organisations" (Krücken – Meyer 2006), more efficient and better able to meet external expectations. This is made possible by the introduction of best practices used in business. A more general ideological framework of the transformation was the New Public Management movement (Pollitt 2003; Broucker et al. 2017), but it is also reflected in the discourse on institutional autonomy (e.g. Pruvot – Estermann, 2017).

However, these changes often lead to criticism and (rarely) internal resistance (Parker 2021) which appear in the discourses on new managerialism (Deem et al. 2007; Halffmann – Radder 2015; Alvesson – Spicer 2016) and academic capitalism (Slaughter –Leslie 1997).

Increased management responsibility is accompanied by an increased desire to control, leading to centralisation of decision-making, increasing standardisation of processes, and the growing importance of planning and evaluation systems. (Rowlands 2020) Performance evaluation systems intensify competition between the actors and increase performativity pressures (e.g. the emergence of a publish or perish culture), but also perpetuate insecurity, contribute to increased fragmentation, alienation, mistrust, and a loss of solidarity and commitment (Poutanen et al 2020). Academic freedom is increasingly dependent on the management and actors outside the academic community. Some academics see the solution in making universities truly public universities (Levin – Greenwood 2016), others in strengthening the role of the academic community in the governance of institutions (Bacon 2014).

The literature would seem to suggest that with the expansion of higher education, the emphasis on management, external expectations and efficiency is inevitable. Its advocates argue that it is not possible to return to either academic self-governance or full public funding. But critics of managerialism see the emergence of dysfunction as equally inevitable.

Our question in the panel is whether the dominance of management and managerialism is necessary? How are universities managed and governed today? Is there some synthesis of the thesis of academic self-governance and the antithesis of managerial governance? Are there alternatives to the governance and management approach that is currently seen as dominant? And if so, what is the key to change? Restructuring of ownership and structural frameworks (e.g. in the composition and responsibilities of decision-making bodies)?  Finding the right organisational culture? Or perhaps the right approach to management, taking into account the knowledge-intensive nature of universities and applying appropriate leadership and management practices?

Submission of abstracts

The panel is global in its focus, hence submissions from countries all over the world are much welcome.

This panel welcomes both conceptual and empirical papers about the changes in governance and management systems of higher education, critical reviews on managerialism and its consequences and suggestions to overcome governance and management challenges.  

Abstracts must be submitted through the ExOrdo system. Abstracts should be 300-500 words. In addition to the abstract text, please:

  • provide a list of key references
  • advise whether you will submit a full paper (preferred) or if this is a work in progress that you would like feedback on and you will only submit an abstract.

Accepted abstracts/papers will be presented at the conference and be subject to discussion afterwards. All papers will be allocated a discussant, and in submitting an abstract/paper, each author indicates their willingness to be a discussant on another paper. 

Special issue

If possible and if the quality allows, we aim to publish a special issue in an academic journal based upon the research papers presented. Full papers will be considered for inclusion in the special issue.


Alvesson, M. – Spicer, A. (2016). (Un)Conditional surrender? Why do professionals willingly comply with managerialism, Journal of Organizational Change Management, 29(1): 29-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2015-0221

Bacon, E. (2014) Neo-collegiality: Restoring Academic Engagement in the Managerial University. London, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Broucker, B. D. – de Wit, K. – Leisyte, L. (2017). Higher education reform: A systematic comparison of ten countries from a new public management perspective. In M. O. Pritchard, R. A. Pausits, & J. P. Williams (Eds.), Positioning higher education institutions: From here to there. Rotterdam: The Netherlands: Sense. p. 19–39.

Deem, R. – Hillyard, S. – Reed, M. (2007) Knowledge, higher education, and the new managerialism: the changing management of UK universities. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Halffman, W. – Radder, H. (2015) The Academic Manifesto: From an Occupied to a Public University. Minerva, 53(6):165-187. DOI: 10.1007/s11024-015- 9270-9.

Krücken, G., - Meier, J. (2006) Turning the university into an organizational actor. In Drori, G. S. – Meyer, J. W.  – Hwang, H. (Eds),: Globalization and organization: World society and organizational change, Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 241–257.

Levin, M. & Greenwood, D. (2016) Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy. Action Research in Higher Education. Berghahn, New York and Oxford.

Parker, M. (2021). The Critical Business School and the University: A Case Study of Resistance and Co-optation. Critical Sociology. 47(7-8):1111-1124. doi:10.1177/0896920520950387

Pollit, C. (2003) The Essential Public Manager. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Poutanen, M. –Tomperi, T. –Kuusela, H. – Kaleva, V. – Tervasmäki, T. (2020) From democracy to managerialism: foundation universities as the embodiment of Finnish university policies, Journal of Education Policy, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2020.1846080

Pruvot, E. B. – Estermann, T. (2017) University Autonomy in Europe III. The Scorecard 2017. European University Association, Brussels, Belgium

Slaughter, S., – Leslie, L. L. (1997). Academic capitalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.