Competing institutional logics in universities in the United Kingdom: Schism in the Church of Reason

Robin Shields, Richard Watermeyer

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47 Citations (SciVal)
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Theoretical literature on institutions emphasizes the importance of logics–shared rationalizations–in determining many aspects of organizations. In this literature, universities are often discussed as an example of an institution with a particularly strong and cohesive logic, one rooted in notions of academic excellence and the pursuit of universal knowledge. However, more recent literature has argued that multiple institutional logics often compete and conflict with one another in a single organization. In this paper, we use the notion of competing logics to examine how academics in the United Kingdom understand the university as an institution. We perform a factor analysis on questionnaires completed by academics to identify overarching rationalizations of universities. Our analysis suggests three competing institutional logics characterize universities: autonomy, utilitarianism and managerialism. We show these multiple logics produce competing models of the university as an institution, and we discuss the practical and theoretical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Society for Research into Higher Education.


  • Higher education
  • academics
  • factor analysis
  • institutional and neo-institutional theories
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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