UV9410 – Institutional and Cultural Approaches to Analysing Higher Education Processes and Practices

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Course content

Higher education is embedded in multiple change dynamics which are related to new policy initiatives, organizational arrangements, advancements in knowledge and technologies, and shifting labour marked needs. The rapid shifts generate pressures for institutional adaptation as well as transformation of educational practices. To elucidate these change dynamics and their various implications, higher education researchers are challenged to analyse relations between organizational layers and processes that span contexts of practice.

This course focuses on two analytical approaches to studying higher education organizations and practices; deriving from institutional theory and perspectives on epistemic cultures and practices respectively. While the first strand of literature origins from sociology and political science, the latter has emerged from social studies of science and more recently from studies of other types of expert work. In recent years, they have both informed studies in higher education, and researchers have advocated a need to integrate concepts and perspectives from the two traditions.

To proceed along this line, however, a profound understanding of the two traditions is needed. The course will give an introduction to key assumptions and concepts in the two approaches, as well as to their methodological consequences. Furthermore, participants will analyse how the perspectives are used to inform empirical research presented in the course readings and in student papers.

Learning outcome

After completing the course the students will:

  • Be familiar with key concepts and analytical notions within the two approaches and how they may inform studies of higher education organization and practices;
  • Be able to identify theoretical assumptions, concepts and units of analysis in studies of higher education addressed in the course;
  • Be able to articulate their own research issues in relation to these traditions


PhD candidates at the Faculty of Educational Sciences and the research school NATED will be given priority, but it is also possible for others to apply for the course. Applicants must have at least a Master's degree.

Candidates admitted to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Educational Sciences should apply through StudentWeb

Other applicants may apply using this application form

Deadline for registration: 1 November 2014.


In addition to two distinguished lectures, participants will analyze and discuss key articles addressing the theme. Participants are also invited to present papers from their own work, addressing the course topic and literature.

This is an intensive course over two days, with 8 hours of teaching on the first day and with 6 hours of teaching on the second day .

Date: 13-14 November 2014.

Location: Scandic Oslo City hotel, meeting room Nerdrum, 5th floor.

You will find the timetable and literature on the semester webpage for this course.


To obtain 1 study point 80% attendance in the course is required.

To obtain 3 study points participants need to submit a paper (5-7 pages, Times New Roman 12, line spacing 1,5).

Papers are to be submitted electronically to Monika B. Nerland (m.b.nerland@iped.uio.no) with a copy to Olga Mukhina (olga.mukhina@iped.uio.no).

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Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2014

Teaching language