Higher Education

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 1–22 | Cite as

Organisation response to institutional pressures in Higher Education: the important role of the disciplines

  • Emanuela RealeEmail author
  • Marco Seeber


How do Higher Education Institutions respond to steering attempts in different disciplines? How can different responses be explained? Case studies have been developed in the Italian Higher Education context and at the departmental level, with a focus on government interventions through funding and evaluation of research. The paper tests the predictions of the model proposed by Oliver (1991) to forecast acquiescence and resistance to external pressures, and develops a new model to interpret and predict organisational response from a wider perspective.


Higher Education Research funding Research evaluation Organisation response Institutional theory Resource dependence theory 


  1. Akerlof, G. A. (1970). The market for lemons: Quality uncertainty and the market mechanism. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84, 488–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Breno, E., Fava, A. G., Guardabasso, V., & Stefanelli, M. (2005). Un aggiornamento sull’impatto della ricerca scientifica e tecnologica italiana in ambito internazionale (1981–2004). CRUI: Analisi Preliminare Roma.Google Scholar
  3. Capano, G. (1999). Italy the endless transition? In D. Braun & F. X. Merrien (Eds.), Towards a new Model of Governance for Universities? A comparative view. Jessica Kingsley: London.Google Scholar
  4. Capano, G. (2008). Looking for serendipity: The problematic reform of government within Italian universities. Higher Education, 55, 481–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clark, B. (1977). Academic power in Italy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, B. (1983). The Higher Education System. Chicago: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, M. D., & March, J. G. (1974). Leadership and ambiguity. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  8. Da Costa, O., Laget, P., Delicado, A., di Pietrogiacomo, P., & Moguerou, P. (2007). Research in University: Changes and challenges in funding and governance. Institute for Prospective and Technological Studies–Joint Research Centre/European Commission.Google Scholar
  9. Di Maggio, P. T., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ferlie, E., Ashburner, L., FitzGerald, L., & Pettigrew, A. (1996). The new public management in action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Giglioli, P. P. (1979). Baroni e burocrati, Bologna, Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  12. Hansmann, H. (1999). The state and the market in Higher Education. New Haven: Yale Law School.Google Scholar
  13. Huisman, J., & Meek, L. (1999). New study programmes at universites: Strategic adaptation versus institutional adjustment. In B. Jongbloed, P. Maassen, & G. Neave (Eds.), From the eye of the storm; Higher Education’s Changing Institutions. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Maassen, P., & Gornitzka, A. (1999). Integrating two theoretical perspectives on organizational adaptation. In B. Jongbloed, P. Maassen, & G. Neave (Eds.), From the eye of the storm; Higher Education’s Changing Institutions. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  15. March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1989). Discovering institutions. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  16. Meek, V. L. (1991). The transformation of Australian higher education from binary to unitary system. Higher Education, 21, 461–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Moscati, R. (1991). Italy. In G. Neave & F. A. van Vught (Eds.), Prometheus bound: The changing relationship between government and higher education in Western Europe (pp. 91–108). Oxford: Pergamon Press plc.Google Scholar
  18. Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic response to institutional processes. The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ongaro, E., & Vallotti, G. (2008). Public management reform in Italy: Explaining the implementation gap. The International Journal of the Public Sector Management, 21(2), 174–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Paletta, A. (2004). Il Governo dell’Università, tra competizione e accountability, Bologna, Il Mulino.Google Scholar
  21. Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. (1978). The external control of organization; A resource dependence perspective. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Reale, E. (2003). The evaluation of public research institutions in Italy: Comparing different approaches. International Conference on Evaluation of Government Funded R&D Activities, Fteval, Vien, available at:
  23. Reale, E., & Potì, B. (2009). Changing patterns in the steering of University in Italy: Funding rules and doctoral programmes. In C. Paradeise, E. Reale, I. Bleiklie, & E. Ferlie (Eds.), University Governance: Western European comparative perspectives. Springer: Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  24. Reale, E., & Seeber, M. (2007). Changes in funding, evaluation and management in the Italian University: impact on research activity, 20 CHER Conference “The Research Mission of the University”, Dublin, 30th August–1 September.Google Scholar
  25. Rebora, G., & Turri, M. (2009). Governance in Higher Education: An analysis of the Italian experience. In J. Huisman (Ed.), International Perspective on the Governance of Higher Education. Abingdom: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Rizzi, D., Silvestri, P. (2000). Mercato, concorrenza e regole nel sistema universitario italiano Università degli studi Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche, WP.Google Scholar
  27. Seeber, M. (2009). Changes in the governance of the Italian Higher Education system, the role of evaluation and funding as steering tools of research, Doctoral Thesis, Chieti—February 24th 2009, University of Chieti-Pescara—Doctoral course ‘Method and tools of research evaluation’.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CERIS CNRRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations