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CHESS - Center for Higher Education and Science Studies

Areas of Tension

Fundamental tensions inform the development of higher education organization as well as science (research and teaching). They are explored and reflected in the work of the CHESS . The central areas of tension are:

Between academic freedom and social responsibility

Universities have always navigated the tensions between internal academic freedom and external social demands or purpose. With the 'New Public Management' reforms in public administration, science is increasingly important as a resource for innovation and demands for "public value" in science have grown. As a consequence, science and higher education institutions are required to redefine this relationship between academic freedom and social responsibility.

Between managed higher education and academic self-governance

The ties between higher education organizations and the academic core of research and teaching have long been loose. Management demands and administrative control on the part of higher education institutions have had little impact on academic work. Academic work, in turn, was often not oriented toward strategic mission statements of the university, but rather, as expert organizations, toward disciplinary or faculty considerations. The strengthened ties between organizational and academic action offer new creative opportunities, but may also generate conflict within institutions of higher education.

Between core funding and third-party funding

Institutions of higher education and science are financed partly by state funds and partly by third-party funds. The relationship between the two sources of funding has shifted in recent years: in most OECD countries, forms of third-party funding have become more important in relation to core funding from the state, with significant consequences for higher education structures and research.

Between research, teaching, and service

Universities are obliged to meet various external demands that result from the definition of their social purpose, funding, and historically developed paths. However, these demands do not always coincide, giving rise to tensions. An example of such conflict might be high-quality basic research as opposed to the demand to supply regional labour markets with academically trained personnel. In addition, "service" is a new dimension within higher education institutions defined by academic politics, and its relationship to research and teaching remains quite tenuous.

Between regional, national, and international positioning

Higher education institutions generally have clear regional or national affiliations. In recent decades, however, they have been sustainably internationalized. This not only affects transnational cooperation between scientists and research teams, but also impacts higher education as institutions in very direct ways as they increasingly compete for funding, students, and the "brightest minds" beyond national borders. Higher education institutions, thus, are now confronted with science and education policy imperatives at multiple levels (e.g., cantonal, federal, European).