Examining shifts in institutional positioning in the evolving Irish higher education system
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The thesis investigates a highly interesting, perennial issue in the contemporary development of higher education in times of massification and public sector reform: forces for organisational homogeneity and differentiation in the field, related shifts in organisational positioning of universities and of restructuration in the field. In particular, the thesis investigates higher education in Ireland between 2011 and 2016 and the impact of a national strategy for higher education launched in 2011. A specific focus of the research is on the intention to introduce a new institutional type, Technological Universities, to the field, and the early effects of this innovation upon organisational isomorphism. The emphasis upon the Institutes of Technology (IoTs) and their response to the reform imparts an element of originality to the thesis, and helps it to become a contribution to knowledge. From an organisational theory perspective, DiMaggio and Powell (1983) define organisational isomorphic change as a process of homogenisation, in which organisations operating within the same environment and under similar conditions, come to resemble one another. The study is informed by international examples of restructuring and institutional positioning. The thesis reviews a considerable amount of literature to discuss recent trends in higher education, and to analyse the literature on organisational isomorphism in general and the related literature on diversity and differentiation in higher education in particular. Further, substantial and creative efforts are made to design the empirical investigation including primary data analyses of interviews, the use of quantitative secondary data, and documentary analyses. This study is expected to be of particular interest to government, policy makers, scholars, and institutional leaders in the higher education area.
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