A programme for Russian higher education leaders through the New Public Management lens
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, Educational Sciences
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This thesis calls attention to a previously unexplored phenomenon: leadership programmes for educators in support of education reforms. Such programmes, appearing nowadays in different parts of the world, are designed to enable educators to carry out certain activities, and to change their perceptions about newly introduced policies. This study analyzes such a programme for university leaders, initiated and supervised by Russian Ministry of education and science. Theoretically the study builds on a concept of New Public Management (NPM), arguing that this concept is relevant to both Russian education reforms and the programme contents. NPM refers to a complex phenomenon of introducing private sector mechanisms into the public sphere. This thesis shows how Russian higher education reforms since early 1990s are going along the lines of NPM, but at the same time paradoxically combine it with planned economy approaches and tight state control. Apart from internal contradictions, the reforms implementation in Russia is also impeded by public resistance and lack of leadership in universities. The study suggests that the programme in focus served as a means of NPM reform implementation, and provided a concentrated version of the local higher education narrative. Research aims were formulated as follows: 1) to uncover the specifics of NPM narrative in Russian context; 2) to discuss the programme as an instrument of facilitating higher education reform in Russia. Methodologically this research is a qualitative case study. Transcripts of the programme lectures served as the primary data for analysis, complemented by interviews and field notes. The data was processed through a theory-guided qualitative content analysis procedure. The results of analysis show that 80 per cent of the contents were in line with the NPM narrative, which was justified primarily through international competitiveness argumentation. The study reveals the ambiguous role of the state, which was positioned as the main controller or customer, but was also addressed as a barrier for development. It shows how student-centeredness lacked from the narrative, while industries and regions were pictured as important stakeholders. The study also uncovers contradictions within the narrative that can explain difficulties in reform implementation: the call for cooperation contradicts enhanced competition; the orientation to the global market contradicts local functions of universities; and suggested NPM means contradict humanitarian missions of higher education. Basing on a single case with the corresponding limitations to generalization, this thesis contributes to the body of research on NPM, studying it in the previously uninvestigated context of Russian higher education.
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