Higher Education

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 315–339 | Cite as

Learning the `New, New Thing': On the role of path dependency in university structures

  • Georg Krücken


In current debates over thefuture of core institutions in a `knowledgesociety', universities figure most prominently. It seemsclear that they are crucial nodes in theoverall knowledge producing system, which, however,need to be repositioned and reformed.Therefore, the learning capacities ofuniversities are of central relevance. But howdo universities adapt to new challenges? Thecentral claim of the paper is that the rapidchange of pace at the level of higher educationdiscourse is hardly met at the level ofuniversities. Here, one has to take the path-dependentcharacter of their structures, practices andidentity concepts into account. Therefore, learning the`new, new thing' is a more cumbersomeprocess than might be expected at first sight.Empirical evidence for this claim is drawn fromthe institutionalization of technology transferoffices at German universities. Based on thesefindings, further general policy and researchperspectives on the role of path dependency inuniversity structures are discussed at the endof this paper.

commodification of knowledge German university system industry and higher education institutional change of universities knowledge society organizational learning organizational path dependency technology transfer university reform 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georg Krücken
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

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