Governance in Higher Education and Science

The research area Governance in Higher Education and Science investigates how individual, collective, and corporate actors within the higher education and science system coordinate their actions and which effects are produced by different types of coordination. The main objects of research are organisations, i.e. their tasks, structures, members, and staff. These research objects (universities, universities of applied science, research institutes, ministries etc.) are investigated with regard to different coordination mechanisms on the organisational meso level of society - such as state regulation, stakeholder guidance, academic self-governance, hierarchical self-governance, competition, and self-regulation of scientific communities. Additionally, concrete configurations of these elementary governance mechanisms (considered as "governance regimes") are examined. Finally, the analysis sheds light on different governance instruments (legislation, target agreements, indicator-based allocation systems, idea contests etc.) that are deployed to coordinate the behaviour of actors. Thus the research area aims to examine the conditions and effects of implementing and using different governance instruments for the whole range of tasks and performance levels of higher education institutions.

Research Unit: Governance of Continuing Higher Education

Further education and lifelong learning at higher education institutions (HEI) is becoming an ever more important element in educational policy in Germany. It is regarded as a crucial factor in coping with demographic changes and securing the innovation capacity of the economy. Important topics are open access, recognition of competencies, flexible study formats and linkages between vocational education & training and higher education. Researchers at DZHW are pursuing a number of research projects in this field: for example the evaluation of the funding competition "Advancement through Education: Open Universities" ("Aufstieg durch Bildung: offene Hochschulen") promoted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in cooperation with the 16 federal states for the period between 2011 and 2020. Research questions focus on the development of study programmes for new target groups and on the development of institutional structures for continuing education and LLL in HEIs. Analytical categories are access, heterogeneity, knowledge transfer, governance and institutional change. We use a mixed-methods methodology with qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Research Unit: Indicator Systems and Resources

Role and significance of this research unit

Changes in governance of the higher education system are particularly evident in changes of the governance structure of higher education institutions (HEIs) as well as in the relationship between federal state ministries of science and HEIs. This is linked to the implementation of new methods of resource calculation and performance measurement in the form of HEI internal and external measurement systems.

Focus of research and tasks

This research unit analyses the systems and governance instruments applied within the higher education system (e.g. performance-based budgeting, target agreements, benchmarking procedures and rating procedures) and further develops these systems and instruments in cooperation with the institutions concerned. The emphasis is on coordinating the specifically scientific objectives and conditions and those specific to HEIs.

Methods and results

Based on the previous research focus topics, this research unit combines the practical design and further development of performance indicators and resource allocation systems (e.g. through a broader integration of various quality-related aspects in teaching and research) with increased orientation on research and theory.

Research Unit: Organisational Structure and Dynamics

There has been a remarkable increase in the significance of organisations as objects of higher education research in recent decades. This development is rooted in the increased autonomy and responsibility of universities as well as in the establishment of new intermediary organisations. It has led to a considerable rise in research interest in structures and dynamics of higher education and science organisations.

Research focus and tasks

The research unit adopts the perspective of governance research and organisational sociology. In the first place it addresses the question how universities and other organisations within the higher education and science system react to changing governance frameworks and instruments, how they adapt and advance their internal structures and what are the reasons for different patterns of reaction. Special attention in this context is devoted to intended and unintended consequences and effects of changing governance regimes.

Methods and Results

The research unit aims to apply state-of-the-art methodology when examining research issues, drawing on advanced qualitative as well as quantitative research methods. A combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods is set up and deployed in mixed methods research designs that are adjusted for each research task, particularly when addressing complex scientific issues.

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Bernd Kleimann
Prof. Dr. Bernd Kleimann Head +49 511 450670-363
Frank Dölle
Frank Dölle Deputy Head +49 511 450670-349


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