The structural reform: so far limited impact on academic practices, academic staff at merged institutions less positive to organisational features of their institution

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In 2015 a large-scale structural reform was introduced in Norway, aiming at improving the quality of higher education. Through mergers between institutions, reform objectives such as high-quality education and research, robust academic communities, proper access to education throughout the country, regional development, world leading academic communities and efficient use of resources were to be achieved. A 2021 survey among academic staff (3,753 valid responses, 50,3% response rate) allows us to gain insight in the teaching, research and third mission activities of academic staff and to see some perceived impacts of the structural reform.

The most relevant findings are:

 First, we were able to compare six of the institutions merging between 2016 and 2017 (INN, NORD, HVL, USN, UiT and NTNU) with a sample of 15 other higher education institutions in Norway. The tendency is that academic staff at the merged institutions in general are less positive with respect to organisational features of their institution than those in the group of other institutions. Both the type of institution and subject fields do play a role in staff reflections on organisational features as well.

Second, our careful overall analysis suggests limited change in the Norwegian higher education sector. Insofar change has been noted, this is not unambiguously related to the reform intentions of the government. Mergers and institutional integration are indeed complex processes, evidently influencing the organisational features of the merged institutions. While the intended change through the structural reform has not yet materialised in academic practices and goal attainment, organisational characteristics are to some extent changing.  However, we should be careful in unambiguously relate the changes to the merger processes and the reform intentions of the government, bearing in mind that the reform I was not the only change in the Norwegian sector.  

Read the policy briefs:

NIFU Insight 2022:1

NIFU Insight 2022:2

For more information, please contact:
Nicoline Frølich, research leader, Higher education
(+47) 906 70 039 


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