International Conference on Changing Universities: Governance, Relevance, Performance

Last updated, 13 Sep 2013
Web Details:
Istanbul, Turkey
29/09/2009 to 02/10/2009

Over the last couple of decades or so, higher education systems and, in particular, universities have become, notably in Europe as well as elsewhere, targets of attention and debate for change and reform. A host of external factors have been at play in shaping the discourses and actions with regard to changing universities. Within Europe, for example, policy statements such as the Bologna Accord, the Berlin Communiqué and the Lisbon Declaration have called for major reforms and re-orientations in higher education as a part of the broader vision of creating a European knowledge society. This has also been linked with expectations that universities should serve as engines of economic growth and national as well as regional competitiveness in the global marketplace. Concerns have therefore been expressed with regard to the relationships of universities with their external environments and the society at large. Business representatives have been demanding closer university-industry ties and research more relevant to their needs. Likewise, pressures have been mounting on providing education that is more responsive to the needs of the labour market. State authorities have joined in endorsing these demands. Moreover, these kinds of pressures have been coming at a time when public funding has been increasingly constrained and universities have been guided towards obtaining other sources of funds, leading, in some countries at least, to the encouragement of privately funded institutions. Concomitantly, there has been a greater concern with resource allocation to and within universities as well as their efficient use, resulting also in a broader discourse on and ensuing polices with respect to issues about accountability.

Altogether these kinds of pressures have resulted in the introduction of new policies and reform initiatives in the last two decades or so, though their timing, scale and pace has been variant across countries. National and organizational level governance systems have been altered, in some cases a number of times. New evaluation schemes have been introduced for assessing organizational, departmental and individual performance. Funding systems have been revisited, quite often in ways that not only attempt to make them performance-based but also to promote and encourage the acquisition of external funds. That these kinds of changes and the responses to them have and are being played out in institutionalized organizational fields has motivated not only practical but also academic interest in their implementation and outcomes. Likewise, that they have been internationally widespread, quite often with some reference to and justification based on North American models has generated debate around convergence as opposed to divergence sustained in many ways.

The above issues have been addressed for the last year or so within a project entitled MEHEM (Mapping European Higher Education Models), funded by the European Union and carried out by scholars from Sabanci University (Turkey), Oxford University (UK), University of Siena (Italy) and Uppsala University (Sweden) together with collaborators from Germany, France and Spain. The Istanbul Conference is organized as a part of this project and aims to bring together researchers from a broader range of institutions and countries with interests in the changes that have been taking place over the last couple of decades at universities, nationally, regionally and internationally. Papers are invited therefore on the following topics, though not exclusively limited to them, as submissions pertaining to related themes will also be considered:

•       Changes in government regulation of higher education fields and universities.
•       Changes in the composition of organizational level governing bodies and the selection of university leaders
•       Changes in funding, particularly the degree to which market solutions is being introduced.
•       Changes in the selection and promotion of faculty.
•       The changing nature of university-industry relationships and their implications for the structuring and administration of universities.
•       The implications of the increasing use of evaluations and rankings for higher education and universities.
•       The implications of the changes that have been taking place on the structure of higher education fields and the role of universities with respect to the construction of national and international elites.

Both conceptual and empirical papers are invited. Empirical papers could be case studies of individual or a small number of organizations as well as larger scale quantitative investigations. Comparative research would be particularly welcome. One additional aim of the conference is to provide a platform for the production of an edited book.

Abstracts of around 500 words should be submitted through the MEHEM website ( latest by 31 May 2009. Authors will be notified about acceptance latest by the end of June. Some funds are available to cover travel and lodging expenses. Please do indicate any needs for funding when submitting your abstract.


Behlül Üsdiken, Sabanci University, Turkey (
Lars Engwall, Uppsala University, Sweden (
Carmelo Mazza, Grenoble EM, France (
Paolo Quattrone, University of Oxford, UK (
Angelo Riccaboni, University of Siena, Italy (