Kyvik - "Experiences with mergers in the Norwegian university college sector"
Experiences with mergers in theNorwegian university college sector Svein Kyvik NIFU
Mergers: Two different processes1. In 1994, 98 non-university higher education institutions were merged into 26 colleges. This process was driven by the state.2. After 2000, new merger processes were initiated by the colleges themselves, or by regional stakeholders, with the aim to achieve university status on the basis of their larger size.
The historical background for the mergers in 1994• Until 1994, we may distinguish between two phases in the evolution of non-university HE:• Phase 1: A long period of fragmented expansion of the college sector (until 1990)• Phase 2: Processes of contraction and regionalisation in the college sector (1976-1994)
Phase 1: Fragmented expansion (until 1990)• Differentiation and diversification - Establishment of independent institutions for different occupations / professions - Different school-owners, administrative arrangements, funding, entrance requirements, etc.
Phase 1: Fragmented expansion (until 1990)• Differentiation and diversification - Establishment of independent institutions for different vocations - Different school-owners, administrative arrangements, funding, entrance requirements, etc.• Geographic decentralization - Establishment of schools and colleges throughout the country
Phase 2: Processes of contraction and regionalisation• Contraction of the college sector - Authority unification under the Ministry of Education - Mergers of professionally close schools and study programs - Standardisation of structures and procedures across study programs
Phase 2: Processes of contraction and regionalisation (1976-1994)• Contraction of the college sector - Authority unification under Ministry of Education - Mergers of professionally close schools /programs - Standardisation of structures and procedures• Regionalisation - Commission on higher education in the late 1960s - Regional steering boards for colleges (1976) in each of 17 regions - Reform in 1994 (mergers of 98 institutions into 26 colleges)
The merger process in 1994 – official objectives• Academic objectives – Create larger and stronger academic units – Create better conditions for students• Administrative objectives – Improve the quality of administrative services• Economic objectives – Reduce costs through economies of scale (teaching, administration, premises)
The mergers in 1994 – unofficial objective• Prevent the two largest colleges (in Stavanger and Kristiansand) from achieving university status• These two colleges had for many years attempted to become universities• By merging these colleges with professional and vocationally oriented colleges, and by creating a binary system, the Ministry wanted to put an end to their university ambitions
The mergers – part of the modernisation program in public administration• HE institutions came to be regarded as regular state agencies subject to a common steering system• Part of ‘New Public Management’ ideas• Decentralisation of authority required stronger administrative capacity at the local level, leading to mergers of agencies at the regional level• The Ministry of Higher Education wanted to reduce the number of colleges under its control
Academic outcome of mergers• Stronger academic institutions - Increased cooperation across study programs - Improved infrastructure (buildings, ICT, libraries)• More visible institutions - Regionally - Nationally - Internationally
Administrative outcome of mergers• Increased administrative capacity• More professional administrations• More complex and bureaucratic institutions (3 adm. levels compared to 1 or 2 prior to the reform)• Transaction costs in network colleges due to geographical distance
Economic outcome of mergers• Difficult to measure economies of scale• For the period 1994-1997, expenditure per student decreased by 2.2 %• But this was due to cuts in budgets because the state anticipated economies of scale• No decrease in administrative costs due to increased governmental demands to the colleges
Successful reform, but• Difficult to ‘create a common educational culture’ across study programs• Tensions between staff at various campuses in network colleges• Some argue that the 1994 reform should have been more extensive (more mergers and fewer colleges)
Unintended outcomes• The 1994-reform formalised a binary higher education system (universities and colleges),• which laid the ground for institutional drift due to the large size of some colleges,• and to further mergers of small colleges to qualify for university status,• and the (coming) breakdown of the binary system.
Merger processes after 2000• From 2002 on, colleges may apply for university status provided they have 4 doctoral programs• Three colleges have attained university status• One college has merged with a university• Two colleges have merged• Several ongoing merger processes with the purpose to attain university status, partly as a result of the recommendations by a commission on higher education
Commission on HE (2008)• All university colleges should be merged with a university• All public higher education should take place in 8-10 multi-campus universities• The Ministry of Education did not follow up this recommendation, but supported the idea that Norway should have fewer colleges• The Ministry would not, however, force colleges to merge
Problems and challenges• New mergers will result in multi-campus institutions• In which campus should the ‘headquarter’ be?• In which campus (or campuses) should the deans be localised?• Should administrative tasks be centralised to the ‘headquarter’ or distributed among the various campuses?
How should the faculties be organised?• According to discipline? (Faculty of social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, etc.?• According to study program? (Faculty of teacher training, faculty of engineering, etc.)• According to geographic localisation? (meaning no faculties should be established across campuses)