Andreas Kjær Stage

Universities are more than just their professors: Understanding organizational transformation through staff changes

The days when self-reliant professors dominated universities numerically and practically have long passed. Universities have transformed into more fully-fledged organizations with a more diverse staffing model. While the literature agrees on the characteristics of the traditional university model, it disagrees on the character, pace, and drivers of the new model’s emergence. This dissertation provides a new empirical basis for grounding conceptual claims of university transformation. Important contours of the new model become visible when the spotlight is turned away from the professors to the totality of university employees. The dissertation sheds light on the obvious but oft-forgotten fact that Danish universities consist of a wide variety of employees. It holistically examines staff changes at very different levels of resolution over two decades, embracing the longitudinal and multi-level nature of university transformation. A multi-tiered approach to payroll data makes it possible to break down staff categories so that they closely complement manager interviews, funding figures, policy documents, and foreign staff data. This empirical material contributes to a holistic understanding of today’s huge, multi-purpose universities and provides fresh insights into the drivers and consequences of university transformation. Despite their notoriety as change-resistant, Danish universities are clearly different entities compared to what they were a few decades ago.

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