Studying Similarities and Differences in Higher Education Organisations based on their Websites – Comparative Methodological Approaches and Research Potential

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This article discusses the possible ways in which visual research methodologies can be extended and applied to study similarities and differences in higher education institutions (and systems) in the context of the visual and digital turn in social science methodologies. The article focuses on the methodological potential of the institutional website analysis as a fruitful approach in comparative higher education research. The article futher focuses on two specific comparative methodological issues: different purposes of comparisons and different organisational aspects which can be compared. The review of the current state of research based on university websites found that the analyses are largely cross-sectional and focused on issues related to institutional identities and positioning of individual self-identities towards institutions as well as on representations of different types of students. Organisational aspects of structure and hierarchies, disciplinary differences, leadership and management cultures, organisational aesthetics as well studies which focus on the representation of non-student groups of university members, are rare and represent potential research frontiers. Most of the reviewed articles are guided by linear causal explanation logic, while other comparative purposes like a better description, critique and provision of alternative explanations are less present and potentially could lead to a better understanding of higher education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-90
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number1
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020


  • Higher education
  • comparative organisation studies
  • comparative purposes
  • website analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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