Posted on May 15, 2013

Excellence and Quality in Western Balkans - A survey investigating the governance capacity of universities in the region

As one of the activities within the project “European integration in higher education and research in the Western Balkans,” a survey has been conducted with the aim to provide a general overview of the governance capacity of institutions in the region. The survey included responses from 52 universities in the Western Balkans (out of 112 sampled) - 27 public, 24 private, and one that is both public and private -  regarded by this report as public. The report, available on the project Activities page, has been written by Antigoni Papadimitriou and Bjørn Stensaker from the University of Oslo, Norway.

For the survey used in this study, a questionnaire was adopted from the U.S. Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Performance in Excellence in Education. The survey was distributed online to the central management of universities in the region. Central management was asked to rate on a scale 1 (not at all) to 10 (fully implemented) if statements on the survey related to strategic planning, stakeholder focus, benchmarking, and results oriented management practices were relevant to that university and the extent to which the respondent regarded those same statements as important.

By operationalizing quality management as the combined institutional capacity for strategic planning, stakeholder focus, benchmarking and results oriented management practices the authors argued that the current survey could identify both strengths and weaknesses in the capacity for change in the higher education sector in this region.

To identify strengths and weaknesses in governance capacity, the average scores were divided in responses in three categories, using 5.00 and 7.99 as cutting points, and drawing on the Malcolm Baldrige terminology and explanations for interpreting the data. Based on such a divide, it was possible to suggest that for most universities there was a fact-based systematic process in place for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of key governance practices. For some institutions with average scores above 7.99, one might even suggested that these universities have in place very effective, well-developed, and systematic processes to evaluate and improve their quality with clear evidence of innovation, learning and organizational sharing, while for those scoring well below 5.00, there should be plenty of room for improvements.

Commenting on specific governance areas, results indicate that strategic planning and benchmarking perhaps are the area with least developed high capacities. Findings suggest that benchmarking practices in particular are not very developed in the region. In the areas of stakeholder and result-oriented practices it seems that more developed institutional capacity exists. Furthermore, university characteristics such as age and size seem to have little impact on governance capacity. On the other hand, findings reveal that all institutions identify a need for further development.

With respect to country differences, some variations have been identified. Analysis of governance capacity between private and public universities indicates that average scores, especially in strategic planning, stakeholder focus, and results oriented management practices, are slightly higher in private than in public universities.

In the coming year, further analysis of the data will be undertaken, but in general the data reveal that there are huge variations regarding perceptions of governance capacity across the participating universities as reported by their central management. These variations suggest that the universities respond quite honestly and meaningfully to our survey.

The full report can be downloaded here.

The presentation by Antigoni Papadimitriou (University of Oslo) can be downloaded from the project conference page.


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Project partners

  • University of OsloUniversity of Oslo
  • University of ZagrebUniversity of Zagreb
  • Faculty of Political SciencesFaculty of Political Sciences
  • Centre For Education PolicyCentre For Education Policy
  • Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and EducationNordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education

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