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  • Sustaining Change in Universities: Continuities in Case Studies and Concepts
  • Philip G. Altbach
Sustaining Change in Universities: Continuities in Case Studies and Concepts by Burton R. Clark. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2004. 210 pp. Cloth $99.95. Paper $29.95.

This is the second volume of Burton Clark's examination of how universities can adapt to the competitive world of the 21st century. The first book, Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organizational Pathways of Transformation (1998), focused on case studies of five exemplary European universities (Warwick in the United Kingdom, Twente in the Netherlands, Strathclyde in Scotland, Chalmers in Sweden, and Joensuu in Finland). The goal was to analyze how these institutions transformed themselves and created a spirit of entrepreneurialism. Clark argued that this spirit—combining a sense of mission, strong executive leadership, and a willingness to be independent—is the mark of successful academic institutions. Sustaining Change in Universities takes this argument to a broader stage.

In this book, Clark looks at a larger number of academic institutions on all continents by providing thumbnail sketches, largely through secondary research, [End Page 932] with the goal of explaining how entrepreneurial change is sustained. The claims that the author makes for these institutions are based on limited evidence, yet the generalizations are worth considering because they deal with a wide range of institutions and come from a scholar who has devoted many decades to analyzing how academic institutions work in many different contexts.

Clark begins by revisiting the case study institutions from his earlier book, and he explores how they managed to sustain the entrepreneurial thrust they developed in the 1990s. He found that all—except Joensuu University, to some degree—remained on track and were able to keep up the pace of their development. The reforms put into place that encouraged entrepreneurialism remained and the institutions continued to build on them. This sense of continuity over time in the analysis adds strength to Clark's argument that strong leadership and successful ideas contributed to the sustainability of the entrepreneurial thrust at these universities.

The new universities added to the case studies in the second volume provide snippets of additional insights and evidence. Again, Clark chose institutions that he felt provided entrepreneurial leadership. Among the cases are Makerere in Uganda, the Catholic University of Chile, Monash in Australia, and a handful of universities in the United States—Stanford, MIT, UCLA, North Carolina State University, the University of Michigan, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Clark distills a number of characteristics of what he considers successful universities for the 21st century:

we find: diversification of income, with a wide range of private and public contributors; strengthened steering capacity, from top to basic units; extended outreach capability, a collaboration with a wide range of business firms and public agencies; strong willingness in the heartland departments to develop adaptive outlooks, including teaching and service for older populations (especially professional development); and a widespread broadening of interest in the academic culture to include the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary alongside the disciplinary.

(p. 165)

He goes on to point out that all of the institutions deliberately increased research intensity as a way of strengthening their reputation, obtaining funds from external sources, and involving faculty in outside activities.

Clark also points out the inhibitors to academic success, including:

high dependence on state core support, with rigid allocations based on student numbers; an unbalanced authority structure in which faculty deans had excessive authority, compared to departments and central staff; a triumph of financial criteria which, at all times, mandated sufficiency within budgets over academic judgment and initiative; and an extended vertical structure of command that frustrated new initiatives to the point where they were "strangled at birth."

(p. 171)

It is clear that Clark supports an orientation to research, a concern with practical knowledge and its application, strong and innovative leadership, and increased independence from governmental control in the public universities. He says little about how the traditional values of academe might be preserved in the new entrepreneurial university. How does academic freedom fit into the [End Page 933] equation? What is the role of the traditional arts and humanities disciplines—fields with limited scope for income generation...


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