, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 2279–2301 | Cite as

The dynamics of university units as a multi‐level process. Credibility cycles and resource dependencies

  • Benedetto Lepori
  • Michael Wise
  • Diana Ingenhoff
  • Alexander Buhmann


This paper presents an analysis of resource acquisition and profile development of institutional units within universities. We conceptualize resource acquisition as a two-level nested process, where units compete for external resources based on their credibility, but at the same time are granted faculty positions from the larger units (department) to which they belong. Our model implies that the growth of university units is constrained by the decisions of their parent department on the allocation of professorial positions, which represent the critical resource for most units’ activities. In our field of study this allocation is largely based on educational activities, and therefore, units with high scientific credibility are not necessarily able to grow, despite an increasing reliance on external funds. Our paper therefore sheds light on the implications that the dual funding system of European universities has for the development of units, while taking into account the interaction between institutional funding and third-party funding.


Resource acquisition Credibility cycles University governance Critical resources Reputation 



This research was funded by Swissuniversities under the programme on Measuring the Performance of Research. The authors would like to thank two anynmous reviewers for helpful suggestions, as well as the Swiss Society of Media and Communication Science for support in the data collection.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benedetto Lepori
    • 1
  • Michael Wise
    • 1
  • Diana Ingenhoff
    • 2
  • Alexander Buhmann
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Communication Sciences, Interdisciplinary Institute of Data ScienceUniversità della Svizzera ItalianaLuganoSwitzerland
  2. 2.DCM Department of Communication and Media ResearchUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Communication and CultureBI Norwegian Business SchoolOsloNorway

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