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Nested hybridity and value definition in public higher education


Elias Pekkola, Rómulo Pinheiro, Lars Geschwind, Taru Siekkinen, Teresa Carvalho, Kirsi Pulkkinen


In this article, we explore multilevel hybridity in higher education (HE) systems, particularly the effects of marketisation on publicly funded universities. Based on current literature, we analyse how government policies and mechanisms nurture the hybrid-operating context of universities, as well as how policies and organisational and professional practices create new hybrid positions in the HE organisational field and influence academic leaders’ positions. We introduce the concept of nested hybridity, where systems at different levels are embedded and interconnected. Many changes either foster or hinder hybridity not only at national or organisational levels but also at professional practices and work descriptions level. Applying Noordegraaf’s (2015) levels of professional work, we describe work in an academic community as the microsystem, the organisation of academic work in work descriptions and managerial dyads as the mesosystem, institutional logics and policies as the exosystem and the HE system as the macrosystem.

Hybrid logics of value definition and production involve a competition between formal and substantive rationalities. Positions and work descriptions of academics, para-academics and other professionals in HE institutions are not the entities in which the value is created. However, the work descriptions form the nucleus for the definition of organisational value-creation processes. New types of professional practices embodied in work descriptions and positions cement the authority structure in the organisational value-creation process. The hybridity of different substantive rationalities or the alignment of formal and substantive rationalities needs to occur at the level of individual professionals in order to have an impact on the primary value-creation processes.