Duration 01.09.2019 – 31.08.2021

The relations between funding streams for research and strategic targets as a challenge for university management. An empirical case study – comparing Austria and Sweden.

Team: Maximilian Fochler, Lisa-Maria Ferent 

Funding: Jubiläumsfond der Österreichischen Nationalbank

Project Description

Research funding is an increasingly important strategic issue for universities. Universities and their researchers compete for funding in a landscape of growing complexity; and the prestige and orientation of research funds play a rising role in shaping universities’ profiles. The governance of research funding is challenging as university leaders have to balance external expectations with the multiplicity of universities’ internal objectives. This multiplicity is associated with the double identification of researchers with both their organization and their trans-local epistemic communities.
The central question of our project is how universities strategically manage research money streams in articulation with their mission and targets. This ties into a larger theoretical puzzle: Recent changes are often expected to turn universities and their leadership into more strategic actors. However, the difficult nature of research as core university activity as well as their long organizational history often significantly complicates these changes. 

We first expect to understand which different types of research funding enter universities. This includes their different properties with a particular emphasis on the degree of discretion their use entails, shaping any room for strategic action at the university or faculty level. Second, our project will yield results on how different types of university research funding are used strategically by university managers and faculty/department heads in the pursuit of both internal and external goals. 

We will address our question in a comparative design. In a double case-study approach, we will compare how universities in two different European countries, Austria and Sweden, cope with similar pressures. Empirically, we use case studies of four universities for each country, selected from different types of universities (comprehensive, technical universities etc.). Within the universities we investigate the role of five different major types of funding streams that exist in all universities in both countries but are of different relevance for the individual university managements regarding their governance activities. 

Methodologically, we will employ a mixed methods approach including both quantitative data of financial streams within universities (based on existing internal data, third party funding data from funding organizations and a survey) and qualitative data (surveys and semi-structured interviews).

As outcome, we expect a strong contribution to the discussion on changes in the governance of universities, critically highlighting the potential range of strategic actions available to university managers. Our results will be relevant for higher education research, but also to higher education practitioners and funders of scientific research.

Cooperation Partners:

  • Vienna Science and Technology Fund WWTF - Dr. Michael Stampfer, Dr. Michael Strassnig
  • WIFO Vienna - Dr. Jürgen Janger