Organizational Theory in Higher Education

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This was a very interesting article. My first reaction to the article title, was that this article would be all about organizational identity and what it was. Not the case. My second reaction to the article when they stated on page 103 in the abstract that, “universities have been found to be quite stable” (Bjorn, 2017), was how stable are they? This was thought provoking. If the universities are that stable, then why are the researchers trying to understand the organizational identity of the universities? To me this is inconsistent with the content of the article. There seem to be too many pressures facing the universities in the internal and external dimensions of the universities causing great tension which means that the relationship between continuity and change does not support the organizational culture relative to organizational identity as stated at the top on page 104.

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Kathleen Manning agrees with these tensions as we discussed in our class on January the 27th, when she stated in the introduction and context setting about traditional tensions within higher education by writing, “In terms of the curriculum, for example, decades-long debates have raged about whether it is better to specialize in majors and minors or integrate knowledge through core curricula and general education requirements” (2013, p. 2). This was inconsistent because the researchers never clearly showed the relationship between organizational identity and organizational culture.

The author of the article starts out on page 103 expressing the idea that the article would somehow argue the concept of organizational identity as a “promising” concept for researching the words continuity and change. On page 105, Bjorn confirms that promise by observing that organizational identity clears up and gives further information on the fact that if the universities were to explain that modifying the policy scope in each sector would have an astounding impact on the institutions. However, on page 104 a shift takes place and the article starts to talk about the focus of the contributions. These contributions were never well stated. And what was the shifting focus of the contributions? This shifting focus was never defined, although on page 104, Weerts did mention that the shifting focus could be related to the past historical transformations which reminds me of what we discussed in class on January the 27th about anarchies.

Cohen and March defined these historical organizations as logical and deliberate organizational anarchies that look inward at the universities. Whereas Kathleen Manning makes the assumption that, “The organized anarchy perspective assumes multiple realities. Faculty experience the organization from their various disciplinary points of view, administrators from their different understandings, students from yet other” (2013). Nonetheless, on page 104, the article goes right back to the contributions. Glynn writes, “In trying to categorize the various contributions about how to understand organizational identity, argued that two distinctive approaches to identity could be identified” (2008, p. 416). Now I am starting to think that the article is just about the 2 approaches emphasizing essentialist and strategist. Bjorn makes it clear that the essentialist are focused on continuity and the strategist are focused on change. Basically, Bjorn brings continuity and change back into the picture by talking about how continuity and change now are mingled together notating how universities and colleges utilize their organizational actors, better known as stakeholders.

At the bottom of page 104, Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff denotes that there are developments that suggest different drivers stating, “The drivers behind these developments are closely linked to the de-regulation of domestic higher education systems and their increasing internationili-zation, with universities increasingly seen as competitors in a more market-like higher educationsector” (1997). But who are the drivers behind the non-defined developments? Under Organizational identity as image, finally a driver is mentioned on page 109. Albert and Whetten agree, “Second, an external image that is perceived to be very different from the organizational identity may also be a strong driver for change, since most higher education institutions areconscious of how others see the organization” (1985). It would have been really nice if Bjorn would have told us who the drivers were from the beginning. But I guess the article would not have been as interesting if Bjorn did not make us search for the answers to statements made on different pages of the article.

With all of these twist and turns in the article from continuity and change to organizational identities relevance to organizational culture, to the contributions and the shifting focus, to essentialist approach and strategic approach to two main sections to the multidimensional dynamics of organizational identity, to the relevance of organizational identity of significant activities in higher education, this was a very good article. It was a higher education drama that you almost couldn’t figure out. 

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Organizational Theory in Higher Education. (2022, Sep 09). Retrieved October 4, 2022 , from

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