Authors: Mergner, Julia
Title: Translating student diversity
Other Titles: How German universities respond to the political discourse on widening participation
Language (ISO): en
Abstract: The dissertation examines how German universities respond to student diversity in the context of the widening participation agenda and how variations in organizational responses can be explained. As a theoretical framework, the study builds on Scandinavian institutionalism (Czarniawska & Joerges, 1996) that seeks to understand how organizations interpret institutional pressures and how these interpretations affect their daily organizational practices (Boxenbaum & Strangaard Pedersen, 2009; Sahlin & Wedlin, 2008). The study chooses the QPL funding program as one concrete example for a soft steering instrument within the widening participation agenda. To account for local variations, this study builds on a multiple case study design including three universities that participated in the QPL funding program and differ in type of institution, location and institutional profile. Data sources from the three case study universities include publicly accessible text materials, semi-structured interviews, group discussions and protocols from participatory observations. The processes of data collection and analysis were guided by strategies of grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The findings indicate how diversely universities interpreted the idea of student diversity in the context of the QPL initiative. Here the study explores not only how universities translate the institutional demand rhetorically or make ceremonial decisions, but also how these translations affect their daily routines and activities of teaching and studying. In addition, the results support theoretical assumptions that the act of interpretation is guided by institutional beliefs and norms that derive from the local context (Boxenbaum & Jonsson, 2008). The study identified institutional characteristics and dominant diversity paradigms as explanatory factors for local variations. Finally, in accordance with Scandinavian institutionalism, the study pays special attention to how the idea of student diversity is materialized on the level of concrete actions at German universities. Using the coding paradigm (Corbin & Strauss, 1990), the study identified seven organizational practices to deal with student diversity that differ not only in their definitions of student diversity but also in terms of the contextual conditions in which they appear.
Subject Headings: Higher education research
Qualitative research
Scandinavian institutionalism
Student diversity
Translation perspective
Widening participation
Subject Headings (RSWK): Hochschulbildung
Issue Date: 2021
Appears in Collections:Hochschuldidaktik und Hochschulforschung

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