Call for Papers: Special Issue in TEAM Tertiary Education and Management

Strategic Management in Higher Education: conceptual insights, lessons learned, emerging challenges

Guest Editors

Tatiana Fumasoli, Centre for Higher Education Studies, UCL Institute of Education (UK)

Myroslava Hladchenko, Nicolaus Copernicus University (Poland)

                Strategy in higher education has been a growing area of research over the last 20 years. Scholars, as well as policy makers and practitioners, have significantly contributed to the body of knowledge related to higher education management and have investigated  different aspects of strategy of higher education.  This has been analysed at the national (Waring 2013; Gazizova, 2012; Barbato et al, 2019), organisational (Vuori 2016; Fumasoli & Lepori, 2011; Van Vught & Huisman, 2013; Shah & Nair, 2011; Luoma, Risikko, & Erkkilä, 2016, Fumasoli et al, 2020) and individual (Degn, 2015; Ainscough, Stewart, Colthorpe, & Zimbardi, 2018; Torrance, Thomas, & Robinson, 2000) levels of analysis.

        At the organisational level, different dimensions of strategic management have gained prominence: mission statements of higher education institutions (Arias-Coello, Simon-Martin, & Gonzalo Sanchez-Molero, 2020; Seeber et al., 2019), development and implementation of strategic plans (James & Derrick 2020; Morphew, Fumasoli, & Stensaker, 2018), use of strategic management tools like SWOT-analysis and Balanced Scorecard (Chimtengo, Mkandawire, & Hanif, 2017). University strategy has been explored regarding various activities such as teaching (Newton, 2010), internationalisation (James and Derrick 2020; Soliman, Anchor & Taylor, 2019; Kristensen & Karlsen, 2018; Middlehurst, & Woodfield, 2007), the articulation of the research-teaching nexus (Couper and Stoakes 2010), application and competition for research funding (Taleeb & Steele, 2000; Litwin, 2009; Boezerooij, van der Wende, & Huisman, 2007), and the marketing promotion of higher education institution (Milian, 2016). The strategy has also been investigated as a response to changing environmental conditions e.g. funding arrangements (Rolfe 2003), as well as, more recently, to the Covid 19 pandemic (Bebbington, 2021). An important strand of research has developed around institutional positioning and profile building (Vuori 2016; Fumasoli & Lepori, 2011; Van Vught & Huisman, 2013; Fumasoli & Huisman, 2013; Wilkins & Huisman, 2019; Morphew, Fumasoli, & Stensaker, 2018; Fumasoli et al 2020).

                   At the individual level scholars have explored the strategy development and implementation by different higher education actors e.g. academics (Degn 2018), deans and department heads (De Boer & Goedegebuure, 2009; Degn, 2015; Hladchenko & Benninghoff, 2020; Davis, Jansen van Rensburg, & Venter, 2016, STtnsaker and Fumasoli, 2017), doctoral candidates (Odena & Burgess, 2017, students (Ainscough et al., 2018; Torrance, Thomas, & Robinson,  2000; Lee et al., 2017). Strategy as practice has been highlighted as an important approach to understand the complexity of strategy in higher education (Frolich et al, 2013).

                 Strategy has been investigated in different types of higher education institutions e.g. university college (Couper and Stoaker 2010), university of applied sciences (2016), undergraduate and research-intensive universities (Milian 2016). The literature provides views on the strategy of higher education in multiple countries: Finland (Vuori 2016), Denmark (Degn), Canada (Milian, 2016), Ukraine (Hladchenko & Benninghoff, 2020), South Africa (Davis, Jansen van Rensburg, & Venter, 2016), Portugal (Mourato et al. 2019), the United Kingdom (2019), Australia (Shah & Nair, 2011). However, strategy of higher education remains underexplored in many national contexts outside Western countries, particularly in post-socialist countries.

       Though the body of knowledge on strategy of higher education has grown and developed in recent years, there is, on the one hand, a need for taking stock of this diverse literature; on the other hand, the challenges higher education has been facing more recently require new investigations on how strategic management is understood, operationalized and on the extent it is impactful. In other words, this special issue wants to bridge the first stage of strategic management studies in higher education to the ongoing and emerging issues universities are facing when they decide their organizational goals and priorities, how to allocate resources, adapt their governance and select the markets in which to operate

This special issue aims to attract studies that contribute to enhance our understanding on theory and practice of strategic management in higher education.  It addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the role of strategy at the national level in order to make higher education systems globally competitive and nationally relevant? How do the different actors influence strategy of national higher education systems? 
  2. What role do middle managers play, in particular the deans and department heads in the strategic positioning and development of the higher education institution?
  3. How are the different groups within the academic community involved in strategy making? How do academics, including Early Career Researchers, PhD candidates, students, administrators perceive strategy regarding their academic life as well as the strategic development of departments, faculties and higher education institutions?
  4. How are higher education institutions developing their strategic capacity to cope with disruptive environmental conditions? This question may be related to disruptive changes such as Covid 19, as well as the increasing demands to be societally relevant, e.g. vis-a-vis UN Strategic Development Goals, employability, technology transfer, financial sustainability.
  5. What strategic tools do higher institutions use to sustain their strategic objectives? Here the focus might be on mission statements, devices such as SWOT, PESTEL, etc. as well as on the role of governance structures, e.g. board of governors.

Papers need to include a comparative perspective, whether cross-sectional or time-related, and need to be contextualized against an international background.

The submission deadline has passed and submissions are now closed.

All papers submitted will undergo double-blind peer review. We aim to provide a first decision within two weeks, reviews by Autumn 2021 and the final decision by beginning of 2022. The SI will be published in 2022.


Ainscough, L., Stewart, E., Colthorpe, K., & Zimbardi, K. (2018). Learning hindrances and self-regulated learning strategies reported by undergraduate students: identifying characteristics of resilient students. Studies in Higher Education, 43(12), 2194-2209.

Arias-Coello, A., Simon-Martin, J., & Gonzalo Sanchez-Molero, J. L. (2020). Mission statements in Spanish universities. Studies in Higher Education, 45(2), 299-311

Barbato, G., Fumasoli, T. & Turri, M. (2019) The role of the organisational dimension in university positioning: a case-study approach, Studies in Higher Education (online 15 Nov 2019)

Bebbington, W. (2021). Leadership strategies for a higher education sector in flux. Studies in Higher Education, 46(1), 158-165.

Boezerooij, P., van der Wende, M., & Huisman, J. (2007). The need for e-learning strategies: Higher education institutions and their responses to a changing environment. Tertiary Education and Management, 13(4), 313-330.

Couper, P, and Stoakes, G. (2010) Introducing ‘SandRA’: Visual representation of the research-teaching nexus as a tool in the dissemination of a new research strategy. Higher Education Quarterly, 65(1), 94-05.

Davis, A., Jansen van Rensburg, M., & Venter, P. (2016). The impact of managerialism on the strategy work of university middle managers. Studies in higher education, 41(8), 1480-1494.

De Boer, H., & Goedegebuure, L. (2009). The changing nature of the academic deanship. Leadership, 5(3), 347-364.

Degn, L. (2018) Academic sensemaking and behavioural responses-exploring how academics perceive and respond to identity threats in time of turmoil. Studies in Higher Education, 43(2), 305-321.

Degn, L. (2015). Sensemaking, sensegiving and strategic management in Danish higher education. Higher Education, 69(6), 901-913.

Frølich, N., Huisman, J., Slipersæter, S. et al (2013) A reinterpretation of institutional transformations in European higher education: strategising pluralistic organisations in multiplex environments. High Educ 65, 79–93 (2013)

Fumasoli, T. and Lepori, B. (2011) Patterns of Strategies in Swiss Higher Education Institutions. Higher Education, 61(2), pp. 157–178.

Fumasoli, T. and Huisman, J. (2013) Strategic Agency and System Diversity: Conceptualizing Institutional Positioning in Higher Education. Minerva, 51(2), pp. 155–169.

Fumasoli, T., Barbato, G. & Turri, M. (2020) The determinants of university strategic positioning: a reappraisal of the organisation. High Educ 80, 305–334

Gazizova, A. (2012). From Turkey to Russia with love: a comparative study of higher education policy strategies in light of ongoing reforms. European Journal of Higher Education, 2(2-3), 198-204.

James, M. and Derrick, G. (2020). When “culture trumps strategy”: higher education institutional strategic plans and their influence on international student recruitment practice. Higher Education 79, 569-588.

Hladchenko, M., & Benninghoff, M. (2020). Implementing the global model of the research university in a national context: perspectives of deans and departments heads. International Journal of Educational Management.

Kristensen, K. H., & Karlsen, J. E. (2018). Strategies for internationalisation at technical universities in the Nordic countries. Tertiary Education and Management, 24(1), 19-33.

Lee, H. J., Lee, J., Makara, K. A., Fishman, B. J., & Teasley, S. D. (2017). A cross-cultural comparison of college students' learning strategies for academic achievement between South Korea and the USA. Studies in Higher Education, 42(1), 169-183

Litwin, J. M. (2009). The efficacy of strategy in the competition for research funding in higher education. Tertiary Education and Management, 15(1), 63-77.

Luoma, M., Risikko, T., & Erkkilä, P. (2016). Strategic choices of Finnish universities in the light of general strategy frameworks. European Journal of Higher Education, 6(4), 343-355.

Middlehurst, R., & Woodfield, S. (2007). International activity or internationalisation strategy? Insights from an institutional pilot study in the UK. Tertiary Education and Management, 13(3), 263-279

Milian, R. (2016) What’s for sale at Canadian universities? A mixed-methods analysis of promotional strategies. Higher Education Quarterly, 71(1), 53-74.

Morphew, C., Fumasoli, T. and Stensaker, B. (2018) Changing Missions? How the Strategic Plans of Research‐Intensive Universities in Northern Europe and North America Balance Competing Identities. Studies in Higher Education. 43(6), 1074-1088

Mourato, J., Patrício, M. T., Loures, L., & Morgado, H. (2019). Strategic priorities of Portuguese higher education institutions. Studies in Higher Education, 46(2), 215-227.

Newton, J. (2010) Implementing an institution-wide learnigna dn teaching strategy: Lessons in managing change. Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), 427-441.

Odena, O., & Burgess, H. (2017). How doctoral students and graduates describe facilitating experiences and strategies for their thesis writing learning process: A qualitative approach. Studies in higher education, 42(3), 572-590

Seeber, M., Barberio, V., Huisman, J., & Mampaey, J. (2019). Factors affecting the content of universities’ mission statements: an analysis of the United Kingdom higher education system. Studies in Higher Education, 44(2), 230-244.

Shah, M., & Nair, S. (2011). The influence of strategy and external quality audit on university performance: an Australian perspective. Tertiary Education and Management, 17(2), 139-150.

Soliman, S., Anchor, J., & Taylor, D. (2019). The international strategies of universities: deliberate or emergent? Studies in Higher Education, 44(8), 1413-1424

Stensaker, B. & Fumasoli, T. (2017) Multi‐level strategies in universities: Coordination, contestation or creolisation? Higher Education Quarterly, 71(3), 263-273

Talib, A., & Steele, A. (2000) The research assessment exercise: Strategies and trade-offs. Higher Education Quarterly, 54(1), 68-87.

Torrance, M., Thomas, G., & Robinson, E. (2000) Individual differences in undergraduate essay-writing strategies: A longitudinal study. Higher Education, 39, 181-200.

Rolfe, H. (2003) University strategy in an age of uncertainty: The effect on higher education funding on old and new universities. Higher Education Quarterly.

Van Vught, F. & Huisman, J. (2013) Institutional Profiles: Some Strategic Tools. Tuning Journal for Higher Education, (1), pp. 21–36.

Vuori, J. (2016) Towards strategic actorhood? The execution of institutional positioning strategies at Finnish universities of applied sciences. Higher Education Quarterly, 70(4), 400-418.

Waring, P. (2014). Singapore's global schoolhouse strategy: retreat or recalibration?. Studies in Higher Education, 39(5), 874-884.

Wilkins, S., & Huisman, J. (2019). Institution strategy in transnational higher education: late entrants in mature markets–the case of international branch campuses in the United Arab Emirates. Studies in Higher Education, 1-17