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World-Rank and/or Locally Relevant? Organizational Identity in the Mission Statements of Higher Education Organizations in Israel, 2008–2018

Abstract

Israeli higher education organizations are currently under pressure to achieve global excellence, satisfy Israeli economic and security needs, and serve Israel’s diverse social groups; they are also required to meet standards of proper governance; and, they wrestle with Israeli, Jewish, Zionist and Palestinian legacies. This array of complex and often conflicting constraints drives our research, to investigate how Israeli higher education organizations are embedded in this particularly complex environment. Whereas research on the mission statements of universities focuses primarily on higher education organizations in the core countries, which serve as the ideals and templates for others worldwide, our investigation reorients this burgeoning research towards the study of higher education identification outside the highly-reputable Western academia. We examine the English-language mission statements of all academic organizations in Israel, in the period 2008–2018. Analyses reveal two main findings: (1) that local–global axis of organizational identity is ordered along place/space distinction and (2) that such glocal identity is enacted at the field level, among categories of higher education organizations. We discuss these findings in the context of the “identity paradox” of contemporary organizations, which are compelled to simultaneously declare their uniqueness as well as their relevance to certain social groups and agendas.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Rather an “invoked,” as argued by Schultz and Hernes (2013): “We purposely use the word ‘evoke’ to emphasize the bringing forth of memory as part of the process of making sense rather than the word ‘invoke,’ which commonly refers to the activation of a given law, routine, or program of action.”

  2. 2.

    In the same spirit and yet analyzing academic staffing decisions in business education field in Turkey, in 2008 and 2013, Özen and Öztürk (2016) identify three prevailing (and co-existing) logics: Scientization, vocational, and entrepreneurial.

  3. 3.

    Similarly, through analysis of the visual organizational artifact of university emblems, Drori et al. (2016) identify four identity models of universities that play off the historiography of the institution of the university. The four models are: classical (related to medieval university model and its subservience to the accrediting authorities of the church or royalty), professional (highlighting competence and “tools of the trade”), local (relating higher education to the nation or geographical region), and “organization” (connoting the impact of “brand society” and the related global trends of managerialism, mediatization and rationalization).

  4. 4.

    66% of these mission statements gave equal weight to teaching and research, while on the whole new universities highlight teaching over research and old universities highlight research over teaching (2006: 282−283).

  5. 5.

    For example, Davies and Glaister (1996) and Blair-Loy et al. (2011) list numerous terms that are frequently used to connote mission statements: ‘aims and values,’ ‘purpose,’ ‘objectives,’ ‘goals,’ ‘responsibilities and obligations,’ ‘credo,’ ‘philosophy,’ and ‘guiding principles.’

  6. 6.

    See, https://archive.org/about/.

  7. 7.

    Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design (founded in 1906), Levinski Teachers College (1912) and David Yellin Teachers College (1913).

  8. 8.

    For example, by serving as the arena for the “language war” and the ensuing revival of the modern Hebrew language (see, Kheimets and Epstein 2005).

  9. 9.

    Including, in addition to the 7 research universities, also The Open University (the largest university, offering distance-education) and Ariel University (which is located in the occupied territories).

  10. 10.

    Compared with an average of 31% among OECD countries.

  11. 11.

    Currently, 6 are among Shanghai’s top-500 universities (2018) and 3 universities among the top-400 by QS ranking (2019), with the Technion leading the Shanghai ranking at 77 (2018) and The Hebrew University leading QS ranking at 95 (2019).

  12. 12.

    With some 18,000 Israelis seeking higher education abroad (outgoing) and only some 4,500 foreigners attending Israeli academic organizations (incoming), the ratio is 4 outgoing to every 1 incoming. By comparison, the OECD average ratio is inverse, with the number of incoming students 3 times larger than number of outgoing students (and Australia leading with ratio of 20 incoming foreign students to every Australian student seeking higher education abroad (2011/12 data; Central Bureau of Statistics data report 9 October 2013).

  13. 13.

    Calculated from the ratio of frequency of the cluster’s words in the mission statement of HEO to the total number of words in the mission statement, then averaged across all HEOs in the category and in the specific time point.

  14. 14.

    Data for 2000 were eliminated from the analysis because of data availability, namely, small HEOs with English-language documents. We nevertheless report on other patterns for the year 2000, because the lack of information is evidence that in 2000 the practice of mission statement was not yet institutionalized.

  15. 15.

    Please note that CHE differentiates among 4 categories, distinguishing between publicly-funded academic colleges and non-budgeted, hence private, academic colleges. In our analyses we unite both into a general category of “academic colleges” for the sake of generalization.

  16. 16.

    June 2015 decision of CHE mandates that a component of the accreditation review of each Israeli HEOs is submission and assessment of the organization’s vision statement.

  17. 17.

    See Mizrahi-Shtelman and Drori (2016), albeit regarding role identity of school principals.

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Acknowledgments

This study is generously supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 812/12), the European Commission’s Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (PF7-People-2012 322041), and 2019 research grant from the Eshkol Institute at the Hebrew University. We thank Ido Katz and Lior Beserman-Navon for data compilation and Ben Borstein and Or Gil for content analyses. We also thank our colleagues and the workshop members of WU-Vienna and of HUJI for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts.

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Correspondence to Ravit Mizrahi-Shtelman.

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Mizrahi-Shtelman, R., Drori, G.S. World-Rank and/or Locally Relevant? Organizational Identity in the Mission Statements of Higher Education Organizations in Israel, 2008–2018. Minerva 59, 1–25 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-020-09414-5

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Keywords

  • Global
  • Local
  • Glocal
  • Mission Statement
  • Organizational Identity
  • Embeddedness
  • Complexity
  • Israel