Main Findings and Discussion

Välimaa, Jussi; Hoffman, David M.; Brennan, John; Rhoades, Gary and Teichler, Ulrich (2016). Main Findings and Discussion. In: Hoffman, David M. and Välimaa, Jussi eds. Re-Becoming Universities? Higher Education Institutions in Networked Knowledge Societies. The Changing Academy – The Changing Academic Profession in International Comparative Perspective, 15. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 339–361.



This chapter ‘connects the dots’ between the outcomes of the CINHEKS study and relates these to contemporary higher education research practice and policy. This conclusion summarizes our main theoretical and conceptual findings, central empirical results and methodological advances in a way that illuminates the key issues and questions brought into view by the CINHEKS study, as a whole. Our findings are critically contextualized in terms of general challenges in higher education studies, which borrow far more than we generate, especially in terms of theory, conceptual problematization, methodology and methods. Theoretically, the analytical synthesis of network knowledge society is highlighted, as is our coining of the term universtasis, a conceptual problematization resulting from the cross-case analysis of fieldwork carried out by all CINHEKS project teams. The competitive horizons heuristic is spotlighted, as CINHEKS was the first time it was used in an international comparative higher education study. The chapter secondly focuses on the most important empirical findings of the CINHEKS study, focusing on findings regarding the role of place, higher education traditions, academic fields and the way in which comparative framing reveals the way these obscure – in distinct ways – the tensions between policy discourse, actual scholarly practice and societal outcomes. The cross-case analysis of the CINHEKS mixed-methods sequential studies; moving through descriptive, interpretive and explanatory levels of analysis reveals the limitations associated with much of the normative framing used every day by researchers and policy makers alike. In addition, interdisciplinary inquiry focused on comparative policy analysis, novel historical framing, shifting competitive horizons and the use of social network analysis sheds new light on both established and emergent forms of stratification within academe – and societies – in a manner that defies much of the oversimplification and guess work that passes for local and national-level ‘explanations’. Comparative framing spotlights that much publically available information profiled by higher education may obscure more than it reveals across distinct methodological nationalism(s), particularly regarding changing values. Methodological advances are also featured, as they were integral to the outcomes of this study. These include our team’s focus on process and the relationship between challenges, opportunities and research team dynamics and how these resulted in the development of the HEI profile, the incorporation of social network analysis in a comparative study, along with key lessons learned, regarding research design and execution. We conclude the chapter with some of the key questions and issues we believe now come into view because of the overarching finding of the CINHEKS study. These questions and issues are important for policy makers, researchers and higher education’s most important stakeholders.

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