Monday, January 22, 2018

Mike Zapp, University of Luxembourg

Institutional Isomorphism in Higher Education Worldwide: A Large-N Cross-Sectional Analysis

Time and Location: 3:00-4:30 PM, CERAS Building, 520 Galvez Mall, Stanford CA 94305 (Room 123)

Large-N cross-national analyses charting institutional change in higher education organizations (HEOs) represent a considerable blind spot in the literature, which is divided over questions of isomorphism versus differentiation. While some studies stress cross-national convergence in HE policy, enrolment and curriculum, the rise of private HE is usually associated with growing diversification and specialization. National and small-N studies paint a mixed picture, mainly due to varying dependent variables. Drawing on the most comprehensive data set on public and private HE organizations available, the World Higher Education Database, covering N=16,282 HEOs from 191 countries, this paper investigates institutional isomorphism across countries, sectors (public, private non-profit, private for-profit), cohorts (1960s, 1990s and 2000s) and different competitive HE environments. Using multi-level regression models, we first examine several organizational variables on functional differentiation, accreditation, curriculum and internationality to explore ideas of isomorphism vs differentiation. Data suggests that these properties vary across cohorts and by size, yet little across sectors, countries and competitive environments. Second, we test the effect of regulative (accreditation) and normative (IAU membership) institutional pressures versus strong competition on organizational properties such as curricular structure and content as well as student services. Results indicate strong predictive power of institutional variables. Given the lack of a genuinely organizational perspective in the study of HE, we explore various theories of organizations such as resource dependence, population ecology and neoinstitutionalism. We conclude by stressing the analytical thrust of sociological neoinstitutionalism in explaining the blurring boundaries and isomorphism in global HE.