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Postgraduate Thesis: Decentralization, marketization and organizational change in higher education: a case study of an academic unitin China
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TitleDecentralization, marketization and organizational change in higher education: a case study of an academic unitin China
 
AuthorsYang, Dongsheng
杨东聲
 
Issue Date2012
 
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
 
AbstractSince the 1980s, decision-making and managerial power has gradually been handed over to higher education institutions in China. This has helped to reduce the government’s financial burden and improve the administrative efficiency of universities. A particular reform involves the establishment of autonomous experimental units within 36 universities. These decentralized units are more highly dependent on market forces than other parts of the university. This thesis examines the development of one such academic unit within one of China’s major universities. The particular academic unit, heretofore referred to as a “school” is studied through a detailed examination of its teaching, research and administration. It is granted a high degree of autonomy to manage itself and its finance. Therefore, it is encouraged to be innovative in its organizational structure and working procedures. This helps drive it to cooperate with industry and adopt a market mechanism in management. The research demonstrates the changing relationships of this school with its parent university, with governments at different levels, and with industry and the wider society. The results indicate that a major shift is taking place in Chinese higher education, as China responds with increased marketization and decentralization. Borrowing theories developed by Clark and Oliver in the fields of higher education and organizational theory, this thesis not only provides a deeper understating of the triangular relationship among universities, state authority and the market, but also refines these theories to suit the Chinese context. This investigation reveals that thus a particular academic unit, unlike most university units in China, must respond to external pressures and expectations in order to survive in a new context of decentralization and commodification. The thesis identifies and analyzes the critical factors affecting the school’s development and its coping strategies within an altered environment of operation. Employing a qualitative research methodology, this work views the selected unit of a major Chinese university as an open organizational system, and analyzes the external and internal forces that influence the school’s development. The data collection approach is comprised of semi-structured and unstructured interviews to elicit views and perceptions from the respondents regarding the decision-making, policy implementation and the development of the unit. A focus group interview method is used to question current undergraduate and postgraduate students about perceptions and attitudes towards the development of the unit. Documents are used to obtain background information and to support and triangulate the data collected from individual and group interviews. Although the school failed to make radical changes to the existing university structure and institutions, it has demonstrated the ability to sustain itself, innovate, and gain legitimacy through continuing negotiation and compromise with university authority, government and market. Based on the results of this research, I would argue that if units similar to this one within Chinese universities are granted more administrative autonomy and orient themselves to market forces, Chinese universities will be able to integrate themselves into the increasingly marketized economy and contribute to national development without sacrificing the core academic missions of teaching, research and service.
 
AdvisorsPostiglione, GA
 
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
 
SubjectUniversities and colleges - China - Administration - Case studies.
Education, Higher - China - Case studies.
 
Dept/ProgramEducation
 
DC FieldValue
dc.contributor.advisorPostiglione, GA
 
dc.contributor.authorYang, Dongsheng
 
dc.contributor.author杨东聲
 
dc.date.hkucongregation2012
 
dc.date.issued2012
 
dc.description.abstractSince the 1980s, decision-making and managerial power has gradually been handed over to higher education institutions in China. This has helped to reduce the government’s financial burden and improve the administrative efficiency of universities. A particular reform involves the establishment of autonomous experimental units within 36 universities. These decentralized units are more highly dependent on market forces than other parts of the university. This thesis examines the development of one such academic unit within one of China’s major universities. The particular academic unit, heretofore referred to as a “school” is studied through a detailed examination of its teaching, research and administration. It is granted a high degree of autonomy to manage itself and its finance. Therefore, it is encouraged to be innovative in its organizational structure and working procedures. This helps drive it to cooperate with industry and adopt a market mechanism in management. The research demonstrates the changing relationships of this school with its parent university, with governments at different levels, and with industry and the wider society. The results indicate that a major shift is taking place in Chinese higher education, as China responds with increased marketization and decentralization. Borrowing theories developed by Clark and Oliver in the fields of higher education and organizational theory, this thesis not only provides a deeper understating of the triangular relationship among universities, state authority and the market, but also refines these theories to suit the Chinese context. This investigation reveals that thus a particular academic unit, unlike most university units in China, must respond to external pressures and expectations in order to survive in a new context of decentralization and commodification. The thesis identifies and analyzes the critical factors affecting the school’s development and its coping strategies within an altered environment of operation. Employing a qualitative research methodology, this work views the selected unit of a major Chinese university as an open organizational system, and analyzes the external and internal forces that influence the school’s development. The data collection approach is comprised of semi-structured and unstructured interviews to elicit views and perceptions from the respondents regarding the decision-making, policy implementation and the development of the unit. A focus group interview method is used to question current undergraduate and postgraduate students about perceptions and attitudes towards the development of the unit. Documents are used to obtain background information and to support and triangulate the data collected from individual and group interviews. Although the school failed to make radical changes to the existing university structure and institutions, it has demonstrated the ability to sustain itself, innovate, and gain legitimacy through continuing negotiation and compromise with university authority, government and market. Based on the results of this research, I would argue that if units similar to this one within Chinese universities are granted more administrative autonomy and orient themselves to market forces, Chinese universities will be able to integrate themselves into the increasingly marketized economy and contribute to national development without sacrificing the core academic missions of teaching, research and service.
 
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version
 
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation
 
dc.description.thesisleveldoctoral
 
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy
 
dc.identifier.hkulb4832992
 
dc.languageeng
 
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
 
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)
 
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.
 
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License
 
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B48329927
 
dc.subject.lcshUniversities and colleges - China - Administration - Case studies.
 
dc.subject.lcshEducation, Higher - China - Case studies.
 
dc.titleDecentralization, marketization and organizational change in higher education: a case study of an academic unitin China
 
dc.typePG_Thesis
 
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<contributor.author>Yang, Dongsheng</contributor.author>
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<description.abstract>&#65279;Since the 1980s, decision-making and managerial power has gradually been handed over to higher education institutions in China. This has helped to reduce the government&#8217;s financial burden and improve the administrative efficiency of universities. A particular reform involves the establishment of autonomous experimental units within 36 universities. These decentralized units are more highly dependent on market forces than other parts of the university. This thesis examines the development of one such academic unit within one of China&#8217;s major universities. The particular academic unit, heretofore referred to as a &#8220;school&#8221; is studied through a detailed examination of its teaching, research and administration. It is granted a high degree of autonomy to manage itself and its finance. Therefore, it is encouraged to be innovative in its organizational structure and working procedures. This helps drive it to cooperate with industry and adopt a market mechanism in management.

The research demonstrates the changing relationships of this school with its parent university, with governments at different levels, and with industry and the wider society. The results indicate that a major shift is taking place in Chinese higher education, as China responds with increased marketization and decentralization. 

Borrowing theories developed by Clark and Oliver in the fields of higher education and organizational theory, this thesis not only provides a deeper understating of the triangular relationship among universities, state authority and the market, but also refines these theories to suit the Chinese context. This investigation reveals that thus a particular academic unit, unlike most university units in China, must respond to external pressures and expectations in order to survive in a new context of decentralization and commodification. The thesis identifies and analyzes the critical factors affecting the school&#8217;s development and its coping strategies within an altered environment of operation.

Employing a qualitative research methodology, this work views the selected unit of a major Chinese university as an open organizational system, and analyzes the external and internal forces that influence the school&#8217;s development. The data collection approach is comprised of semi-structured and unstructured interviews to elicit views and perceptions from the respondents regarding the decision-making, policy implementation and the development of the unit. A focus group interview method is used to question current undergraduate and postgraduate students about perceptions and attitudes towards the development of the unit. Documents are used to obtain background information and to support and triangulate the data collected from individual and group interviews. 

Although the school failed to make radical changes to the existing university structure and institutions, it has demonstrated the ability to sustain itself, innovate, and gain legitimacy through continuing negotiation and compromise with university authority, government and market. Based on the results of this research, I would argue that if units similar to this one within Chinese universities are granted more administrative autonomy and orient themselves to market forces, Chinese universities will be able to integrate themselves into the increasingly marketized economy and contribute to national development without sacrificing the core academic missions of teaching, research and service.</description.abstract>
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<rights>Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License</rights>
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