Panel 1: Making sense of universities in contemporary history: exploring the prospects of interdisciplinarity
In this panel, we seek to explore how universities have responded to societal changes over the past half-century by combining insights from different disciplines. Universities are key institutions in contemporary political history. Because of their social embeddedness, they have been adapting their organization to socio-political changes such as democratization, internationalization, and the rise of New Public Management. Universities are also active societal actors through committing to their core tasks, especially in the current knowledge society. Departing from their scientific authority, they join debates on pressing issues like climate change, universal healthcare, migration, and poverty. Furthermore, they safeguard democratic values in times of polarization and fake news. Due to their multifaceted social role and ever-changing identity, universities form an urgent research topic for political historians.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the number of universities and students increased sharply in Western Europe. But due to the economic downturn from the mid-seventies, national governments began imposing budget cuts and implementing far-reaching rationalization measures. From the 1980s onwards, governments opted for a neoliberal approach in which universities were granted further managerial freedom in return for more accountability about their performance. University administrators transformed their management, making these institutions increasingly function as a commercial business, where managerial values and concepts were implemented (e.g., output indicators, efficiency measures, performance-based management). These reforms led to tensions between market and academic values. For instance, performance-based funding led to severe competition between and within universities, at the cost of free academic research and education. Moreover, the introduction of hierarchical management came at the expense of university democracy. As a result, the ‘manager’s university’ was more and more debated.
Exploring the prospects of interdisciplinarity
Primarily social scientists have studied these recent developments. Although their research improves our conceptual understanding of university changes, few political historians utilized these insights. At the same time, social scientists have paid limited attention to the impact of socio-political changes on the organizational level, experiences of individual universities, and the broader historical context. By bringing social scientists and political historians together, we intend to better understand the meaning of the university in a changing political-historical context. How did universities adapt their organization? How were decisive moments at the (inter)national level ‘translated’ into practice or countered at the level of individual universities? And how did a variety of stakeholders make sense of these transformations? By addressing these questions, this panel encourages the debate on interdisciplinarity (perspectives, theories, concepts, methods, sources) regarding research into the organization, (mal)functions, and values of universities.
Chair: Leen Dorsman is Full Professor in the History of Universities at Utrecht University. He was editor/author of the series Universiteit en Samenleving (University and Society, 13 volumes). He also publishes on the history of historiography and has an interest in the genre of the biography.
Discussant: Jeroen Huisman - (Ghen University) is – since 2013 – Professor of Higher Education at Ghent University (Belgium). He held positions at the University of Twente (1991-2005) and the University of Bath (2005-2013). His main research interests are organizational change and policy and governance in higher education. In his work, he makes use of a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including political sciences, public administration, (organizational) sociology, history, and business administration.
Pieter Slaman is Assistant Professor at Leiden University. He teaches history of education and political history. His PhD thesis was on the political history of Dutch public student grant policies 1815-2015. Afterwards, he edited the volume In de regel vrij. 100 jaar politiek rond onderwijs, cultuur en wetenschap on Dutch education politics and policies since 1918. In 2021, he published De Glazen Toren. De Leidse universiteit 1970-2020 on the recent history of Leiden University. Recently he was appointed as Leiden’s university historian.
Floris van Berckel Smit MSc MA is a PhD Candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and the Centre for Higher Education Governance Ghent (CHEGG, Ghent University). He incorporates social science insights into historical research. His research interests focus on the history of higher education governance, the rise of New Public Management, Learning Histories, and oral history. His research is embedded in the research group of Political History of the VU and the CHEGG. Floris participates in various projects in which he collaborates with historians, political scientists, public governance experts, and organizational sociologists. In 2020 he received a NWO-grant to conduct research on the rise of New Public Management in Dutch and Flemish university governance.
Christine Teelken works as an Associate Professor and Programme Director at the Department of Organisation Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is Editor in Chief of Higher Education Quarterly, and has published widely on higher education governance and managerialism, diversity and (post) academic careers.
Alexia Coussement graduated from the KU Leuven in 2017, where she first worked as a Research Assistant (KADOC). In 2019 she started her PhD at the Centre for Political History (University of Antwerp). She studies the establishment of this university. In this regard, she is currently a board member of Gewina – Belgian-Dutch Society for the History of Science and University.
Ronald Kroeze is Associate Professor of Political History and Director of Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Ab Flipse is University Historian of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
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Researchschool Political Historybureau@onderzoekschoolpolitiekegeschiedenis.nlhttps://www.aanmelder.nl/politicalhistorytoday2022
Political history today: exploring new themesPolitical history today: exploring new themes0.00EUROnlineOnly2019-01-01T00:00:00Z
Conference venue: KNAW TrippenhuisConference venue: KNAW TrippenhuisKloveniersburgwal 29 1011JV Amsterdam Netherlands