The bureaucratization monster and the digitalization pandemic

a follow-up study of professional autonomy and digitalization in higher education

The bureaucratization monster and the digitalization pandemic

We are planning a follow-up to the CVS-funded study that was carried out in 2020. In this, we investigated how teachers at two higher education institutions experienced and carried out the dramatic and crisis-driven transition from campus-driven teaching to digital teaching (see Hjelm-Lidholm, Mauléon, Müllern & Solli , 2021).

When the Corona pandemic swept across the world, a unique chance was given to study the dramatic digital transition within higher education. The study shows how the teachers situation was highly stressful as management and their decision making processes were too slow during the first dramatic weeks of the pandemic. During this early phase of the pandemic the teachers were alone and were given the responsibility to resolve the situation. The mentioned study raises questions regarding the way bureaucratization of higher education institutions (in which digitalization may be a part), affects their general ability to adapt and evolve.

Today, universities are faced with a choice; and the purpose of this study is to study which choice universities will make – does the pandemic crisis result in universities returning to a more profession-led organization, or will the bureaucratic line management be strengthened, and what role does digitalization play in this?

By studying the presumptive role of digitalization as a (co-)creator of more formalized, standardized and rule-governed forms of management and control of higher education, this study contributes to increased knowledge about how the introduction of digitalization and digital solutions affects the professional practice and autonomy of professionals in higher education. 

The project is financed by the Centre for Welfare Studies, CVS.