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Universities and firms: a comparative analysis of the interaction between market processes, organizational strategies and governance

Research project P5/26 (Research action P5)

Persons :

Description :

Our previous project, entitled "The Strategic Analysis of Organizations: Microeconomic and Management Perspectives, with an Application to Universities", explored new developments in the theory of organizations and applied them to the specific case of universities. Given their key role for economic development, universities represent an interesting case study, since they are also in a challenging and changing environment, due to public budget constraints as well as exhortations to improve management practices. Moreover, they are an example of non-profit institutions, which raises interesting questions on their objective function and evaluation of their appropriate product mix (between undergraduate and graduate teaching and basic and applied research). The project was interdisciplinary in nature: while it had a strong microeconomic theory component, it also relied on management and organizational sociology perspectives. It could also count on the management expertise of a number of researchers involved in the team, acquired especially in academic, but also in non-academic institutions.

The previous project has generated many insights on the university sector, and culminated in particular in a book summarizing several research outputs from team members. These will be detailed in the next section of this proposal. However, as will be clear from this next section, many interesting questions remain unanswered in this important area of research, and the new project aims at going much more systematically into the detailed behavior of universities, while taking as unifying theme a comparison with firms. Beyond this, we shall keep our commitment to interdisciplinary research and we shall continue to benefit from the management expertise of several team members. Finally, we shall continue to combine theory and empirical work, but we will have an added emphasis on the latter.

The next section will identify many avenues for further research. We will group them into the following six themes, which can each bring together individuals from the various teams. Each theme addresses a major set of concerns for university behavior:

1. Measuring educational performance and behavior
2. Comparing corporate governance and university governance
3. Funding rules, R&D and organizational behavior
4. Human resources, technology and globalization
5. Focus & quality: strategic management in for-profit & non-profit institutions
6. Market competition, contractual relations & organizational strategies

These themes will be presented in detail in the section on the description of the project.

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