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Change and higher education: analysis of configurations, academic identity and student engagement



ID: <http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/66691>


Since the creation of a welfare state at the end of World War II, going through the rationalization trends of the 80's and more recently the emergence of technological innovation and new forms of knowledge production and dissemination, the university has been at the center of numerous debates concerning its mission and its role within society. In response to these discussions and questions reflecting the social and economic environment in which this institution operates, the university was led to introduce changes in the forms of knowledge production as well as the status and role of its main internal (administrators, academics, students) and external (governments, companies) stakeholders in the process of these changes. The goal for the university is to put itself in a leading position in societies in which economic performance is increasingly dependent on knowledge and education. However, little research has focused on reporting, through an integrated approach based on macro, meso and micro levels of analysis, the main mutations that have marked and mark even more the university nowadays. Trying to remedy this weakness, this thesis aims to deal with the main transformations the institution has experienced, on a triple plan that integrates the context, content and process of change. The first article of this thesis aims to determine whether the university as a pluralist organization is able to evolve towards a post-bureaucratic configuration. By a discourse analysis of four meta-actors of three key moments of change that marked the Québec university, this article wishes to highlight that the university has evolved by sedimentation in its configuration, based on a fragile consensus on a difficult cohabitation between social democratic values versus rationalization ones. In this context, the evolution towards a postbureaucratic configuration would require actions in response to this strategic ambiguity, particularly those initiated by teachers and administrators. It would also require as well a new actor that is the industry, without however challenging the already existing consensus. The second article of this thesis attempts to account for the way in which academic identity is defined in reaction to a neo-liberal orientation of the university. Based on a meta-synthesis of 19 qualitative and empirical articles that investigated the impacts of New Public Management and managerialism on the identity of the members of the academic staff of universities, this article tries to highlight how these individuals define / redefine their identity V in light of institutional work and the type of agency mobilized by these actors. Academics then would particularly benefit from developing a projective agency and diversifying their places of support in order to make their managerial identity experience less difficult. Finally, the third chapter of this thesis seeks to make an inventory of the forms of student engagement in the face of the growing emergence of a movement. Based on a general inductive analysis, this chapter attempts to understand better the individual experience of student engagement. Thus, it seeks to give an account of the way in which the individual student representative engages and acts within his engagement in a context of emergent change. Student representatives do not seem to meet in their engagement, as evidenced by the grassroots leadership activities that are mobilized by these individuals in response to the emergence of change.

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