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The mediatisation of university governance: a theoretical and empirical exploration of some side-effects

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This paper is concerned with analysing potential negative effects of mediatisation of university governance in Germany. Among others, mediatisation reflects a change in expectations on how higher education institutions (HEI) should relate to the public. We start with an exploration of two sets of developments that spawned this change of expectations. On the one hand, the policy idea of a trend to a knowledge society affected what public contributions are expected of HEI. On the other hand, reforms to decentralise HEI-governance compelled universities to orient themselves more directly towards the demands of external stakeholder. Both developments reinforce each other, both are associated with extended needs for actor intermediation, and for consolidating means of orientation. Since performance figures and competition solely allow for a partial mapping of society's demands and needs, HEI and state administrators alike can be expected to make additional use of the public discourse to evaluate comparatively a multitude of demands and expectations. This results in what we call a model of mediatised university governance. Since the media discourse on higher education is strongly biased towards news values, this type of governance bears a potential for unintended side effects. In the second part of the paper, two empirical illustrations of side effects are discussed. First, the role of media attention in accidentally reinforcing a reputational mismatch of teaching and research is investigated. For a second case, we focus on an overstretching of the information value of media-effective rankings for decision making. The cases draw upon survey data, semi-standardised expert-interviews and content analysis of news media coverage.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Email: [email protected] 2: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2016-01-15

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