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Title: Processes of institutional innovation in higher education in central and eastern Europe in the period 1989-2005 : five higher education institutions supported by the Hesp/Open society institute network
Author: Romenska, Sandra
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis presents the results of a study of institutional innovation in higher education. After 1989 the structures and systems of higher education in a number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe were exposed to turbulent pressures from their radically changing environments, triggered by the fall of the communist regimes in the region. As a consequence, during the period of transition of the post- communist societies towards democratisation and market reform, new higher education institutions emerged, and new actors entered the higher education scene. Despite the potential of these developments to expose how and why innovative higher education institutions develop, there is a deficit of studies which systematically examine the pathways of change in post-communist higher education, especially from a comparative perspective. This research shortage becomes even more evident if thematically relevant areas are considered - comparative higher education research, research on change and innovation, and the burgeoning body of literature on institutions. As a result, individual explanatory factors, as well as causes of the differences and similarities in the institutional transition remain ambiguous. The study reported in this thesis focused on five higher education institutions established after 1989 in four countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The institutions were selected from a network of innovative higher education institutions, supported by one of the principal non-governmental organisations investing in the reform of post-communist higher education. The study was guided by the following research questions: How did the five higher education institutions develop in the period between 1989 and 2005? What descriptive and analytical ideas regarding the establishment and development of their institutions are revealed by participants in the study? The thesis begins with a review of historical developments in higher education in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the communist regimes. Chapters One to Four draw on this historical account to build the structure of the analytical and methodological framework of the study, by incorporating analyses of relevant literature on higher education, institutional theories and innovation. Gaps in existing literature are identified and linked with the rationale of the study, which serves to support the formulation of the research questions. The empirical analysis in Chapters Five to Seven seeks to address the two research questions by examining evidence, generated from interviews with members of the five higher education institutions selected for this study, representatives of organisations supporting the institutions, and documentary evidence. The individual histories of the five higher education institutions and the non-governmental programme which supported them are explored. Evidence of participants' ideas about the innovative strategies of their institutions, the evolution of their institutional missions with the change in the nature of their relationship with the state and their funders, and the challenge of achieving sustainability serves to construct an account of institutional innovation as a dynamic balance between processes of imitation, recombination, transfer and invention. Finally, the findings of the study are discussed with reference to existing research. The insights gained in the study map out the fertile ground for exploring further considerations, relating to the emergent view of institutional innovation in higher education. The idea that innovations and institutions, rather than ruling each other out, could be parts in the same continuous process may be a simple one, but it is an idea worthy of further exploration.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available