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Organizational flexibility of Turkish universities: Evaluations in the institutional reports of European University Association - Türk üniversitelerinin örgütsel esnekliği: Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği’nin kurum raporlarındaki değerle

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Abstract The purpose of this research is to examine the level of organizational flexibility in Turkish universities. The institutional evaluation reports of the European University Association (EUA) related to Turkish universities were used as the
    Article Type: Research Paper Original Title of Article: Organizational flexibility of Turkish universities: Evaluations in the institutional reports of European University Association Turkish Title of Article: Türk üniversitelerinin örgütsel esnekliği: Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği’nin kurum raporlarındaki değerlendirmeler   Author(s): Barış USLU   For Cite in: Uslu, B. (2017).   Organizational flexibility of Turkish universities: Evaluations in the institutional reports of European University Association. Pegem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7  (2), 231-256, http://dx.doi.org/10.14527/pegegog.2017.009 Makale Türü:   Özgün Makale   Orijinal Makale Başlığı: Organizational flexibility of Turkish universities: Evaluations in the institutional reports of European university association Makalenin Türkçe   Başlığı: Türk üniversitelerinin örgütsel esnekliği: Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği’nin kurum raporlarındaki değerlendirmeler   Yazar(lar): Barış USLU   Kaynak Gösterimi İçin:   Uslu, B. (2017). Organizational flexibility of Turkish universities: Evaluations in the institutional reports of European University Association. Pegem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7(2), 231-256, http://dx.doi.org/10.14527/pegegog.2017.009    Organizational Flexibility of Turkish Universities: Evaluations in the Institutional Reports of European University Association Barış USLU *a   a Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Faculty of Education, Canakkale /Turkey  Article Info Abstract DOI: 10.14527/pegegog.2017.009   The purpose of this research is to examine the level of organizational flexibility in Turkish universities. The institutional evaluation reports of the European University Association (EUA) related to Turkish universities were used as the data sources. The EUA’s reports of 14 universities w ere selected by taking the locations and dates of their reports into consideration. The research was then designed in a case study pattern, as a qualitative inquiry. During the analysis of the EUA’s reports, descriptive thematic analysis was carried out. According to the findings, it can be said that the general level of organizational flexibility in Turkish public universities is not high, as in their institutional autonomy level calculated by the EUA. It seems that financial autonomy initiates the formation of strategy flexibility in universities, and conformable rules and regulations of national higher education provide room to universities for precept and managerial flexibility. The stronger organizational flexibility will then provide a greater university autonomy in terms of financial, managerial, employment, and academic autonomy. Based on these results, several recommendations are proposed to higher education policy makers, as well as to university managers in Turkey.  Article History:  Received Revised Accepted Online   14 June 2016 09 January 2017 15 February 2017 08 April 2017 Keywords: Organizational flexibility, Turkish universities, Institutional evaluation reports, European University Association.  Article Type: Research paper Türk Üniversitelerinin Örgütsel Esnekliği: Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği’nin Kurum Raporlarındaki Değerlendirmeler   Makale Bilgisi Öz   DOI: 10.14527/pegegog.2017.009   Bu araştırmanın amacı, Türk üniversitelerinin örgütsel esneklik düzeylerinin incelenmesidir. Veri kaynağı olarak, Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği’nin (AÜB) Türk üniversitelerine ilişkin kurumsal değerlendirme raporları kullanılmıştır. Bulundukları bölge ve değerlendirme raporlarının tarihleri göz önüne alınarak 14 üniversiteye ait AÜB’nin kurumsal değerlendirme raporları seçilmiştir. Ardından; araştırma, nitel araştırma yöntemlerinden durum çalışması desenine uygun olarak yürütülmüştür. AÜB raporlarının analizi ise betimsel tematik analiz tekniğiyle gerçekleştirilmiştir. Bulgulara göre; AÜB tarafından hesaplanan üniversitelerin kurumsal özerlik çıktılarıyla benzer şekilde, Türk devlet üniversitelerinin örgütsel esneklik düzeyinin yüksek olmadığı söylenebilir. Finansal özerkliğin, üniversitelerde strateji esnekliğinin oluşumunu kolaylaştırdığı ve uyumlu ulusal yükseköğretim kanunları ile düzenlemelerinin, kural ve yönetsel esnekliğe zemin hazırladığı görülmüştür. Güçlü örgütsel esnekliğinin ise finansal, yönetsel, işgücü ve akademik açılardan daha geniş bir üniversite özerkliği sağladığı ifade edilebilir. Bu sonuçlara dayalı olarak, Türkiye’deki yükseköğretim politika yapıcılarına ve üniversite yöneticilerine yönelik bazı öneriler sunulmuştur.   Makale Geçmişi:   Geliş   Düzeltme  Kabul Çevrimiçi   14 Haziran 2016 09 Ocak 2017 15 Şubat  2017 08 Nisan 2017  Anahtar Kelimeler: Örgütsel esneklik,   Türk üniversiteleri,   Kurumsal değerlendirme raporları,   Avrupa Üniversiteler Birliği.   Makale Türü:   Özgün makale * Author/Yazar: barisuslu@gmail.com Pegem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7(2), 2017, 231-256 www.pegegog.net  Barış USLU    –  Pe gem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7 (2), 2017, 231-256 232 Introduction In organizational theory, one of the contemporary approaches is the ‘System Approach’, which asserts that modern organizations collect inputs from their environment, cultivate these inputs throughout their organizational process, and then release the outputs of the processed inputs into their environment (Hoy & Miskel, 2015). Universities are perfect examples of open systems by their complex relations with both internal and external stakeholders. Thus, universities are deeply influenced by changes in the national economy, science and technology policies, public administration understanding (e.g. managerialism, accountability, performance management, budget cuts, and privatization), educational practices (e.g. practical/professional training, technology-assisted teaching, and distance education), and global trends in higher education (e.g. mass/universal education, international collaboration, staff/student exchange initiatives, joint degree programmes, and Massive Open Online Courses  –  MOOCs) (Aktan, 2007; Chapman & Austin, 2002; Erkan, 2011). Modern universities, to keep pace with changes in their fast-paced environment, need to make serious alterations within their structures, policies, and procedures. Moreover, some internal forces for change in universities are: the nature of academic work, stakeholders’ demands, managerial personnel changes, policy -making processes, existing organizational structures, power distribution, political relations, organizational cultures, and individuals’ characteristics (Boonst ra, 2004; Kondakci & van den Broeck, 2009; Stefani, 2008). University managements can only cope with these complex change factors by creating flexible structures in their organizations (Chan, 2012; Clark, 1998, 2001). Flexibility of organizations means the adaptation of organizations to new opportunities or threats in their environments (Maldonado, 2003; Özden, 2005). Organizational flexibility is defined as the ability of organizations to give proper responses at the right time to changes in their environment by altering their policies and strategies, managerial operations and work procedures, and organizational structures (Adonisi & van Wyk, 2012; Skorstad & Ramsdal, 2009). Ceylan (2001, pp. 38-47) identified seven dimensions of organizational flexibility in service organizations: Strategy Flexibility  , Managerial Flexibility  , Precept Flexibility  , Labour Flexibility  , Organizational Clarity and Appreciation , Organizational Structure Flexibility  , and Communication Flexibility   (as cited in Uslu, 2015, p. 41). Strategy Flexibility   is defined as shifting organizational strategies according to changes in their environments and competitors. Managerial Flexibility   is the rapid alteration of management style to attain organizational goals rapidly, and impressing other dimensions of organizational flexibility by these managerial alterations. Firmness of rules and regulations in organizations and their accordance level to allow resilience for employees’ own decisions is called Precept Flexibility  . The diversity and development level of employees’ skills in organizations is entitled Labour Flexibility  . Organizational Clarity and  Appreciation  means to create trust among employees by clear job procedures and reward approaches which take into account diverse aspects of employ ees’ efforts. Organizational Structure Flexibility   indicates systems in which employees are less controlled and can plan their work individually, and is suitable for collaborative team projects and process oriented tasks. Communication Flexibility   includes alternative channels in organizations for horizontal and transversal communication among employees alongside vertical communication channels between juniors and seniors. This theoretical frame can be used as a parameter to evaluate organizational flexibility in universities. However, some important points related to current situations of organizational flexibility in universities might be missed during their self-evaluation. On the other hand, institutional evaluations performed by external bodies might provide more objective results for universities to decide which types of initiatives they need to generate more flexible organizational structures (Çalık & Bumin - Süzen, 2013; Rosa, Cardoso, Dias, & Amaral, 2011). In Europe, in terms of quality assurance and transparency in higher education, as well as integration of universities from different countries, one of the major external evaluation mechanisms for universities is the European University Association (EUA).  Barış USLU    –  Pe gem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7 (2), 2017, 231-256 233 The EUA offers three evaluation options for universities, regions, and countries, and universities can request individual evaluation for their organization within the Institutional Evaluation Programme (IEP). During the IEP, the authorised committee (usually composed of four experienced academics or experts) evaluates a university, generally in terms of institutional norms and values, governance and operations, quality assessment activities, and strategic management and change capacity (EUA, 2015a). This committee, after two site visits, presents its final report containing recommendations to manage institutional change and enhance quality in the university. Since 1998-99, many Turkish universities (23 public and 9 foundation universities) have benefited from institutional evaluations by the EUA; several universities even took follow-up evaluations a couple of years after from their first evaluations (EUA, 2015b; Visakorpi, Stankovic, Pedrosa, & Rozsnyai, 2008). These reports offer valuable assessments, comments, and suggestions about the Turkish Higher Education System, universities, and their organizational structure, in terms of both their strengths and weaknesses, based on the opinions of senior academic managers around Europe. Therefore, EUA’s evaluations are an important source to interpret the organizational flexibility of Turkish universities. The recommendations of foreign evaluators related to essential organizational units, effective policies, and efficient practices can also be useful for university managers to improve the flexibility level of their institutions. In this regard, the purpose of this study is to examine organizational flexibility in Turkish universities by using the results in the institutional evaluation reports of the EUA. Literature Review Although the necessity of a flexible organizational structure in modern, entrepreneurial universities has been underlined in higher education literature (Aktan, 2007; Aypay, 2015; Barblan, Ergüder, & Gürüz, 2008; Chan, 2012; Chapman & Austin, 2002; Clark, 1998, 2001; Çetinsaya, 2014; Maldon ado, 2003; Yamaç, 2009), none of these studies directly investigated organizational flexibility in universities. Uslu (2015, 2016a) developed a scale to measure managerial flexibility regarding scholarly practices (MFRSP) in universities by taking Ceylan’s  (2001) framework into consideration. Uslu (2016b) then evaluated faculty’s perceptions of MFRSP by checking the effect of their managerial duties, and faculty reported a higher level of managerial flexibility regarding research practices than teaching and service practices in Turkish public universities. Uslu & Arslan (2015) also examined the relations between MFRSP, organizational communication, organizational climate, and faculty’s academic intellectual leadership and found that managerial flexibility regarding service practices was a significant predictor for all six dimensions of academic intellectual leadership while managerial flexibility regarded teaching practices only in the ‘Guardian’ dimension.   On the other hand, Çalık & Bumin - Süzen  (2013) investigated the agreement level of faculty from three Turkish public universities to improvement suggestions (related to management, finance, research, education, external stakeholders, and international perspectives) in the institutional reports of the EUA for their institutions using a questionnaire. They found that the faculty from an international university among the three participant institutions showed the lowest agreement to recommendations in the EUA’s reports, and the faculty from educati onal science had the highest acceptance of recommendations related to external stakeholders and international perspectives. Another study based on evaluations in the EUA’s reports on Turkish universities was the evaluation report of the Turkish higher education system in 2007-2008 (Visakorpi et al., 2008). To empower financial autonomy and strategic flexibility in Turkish universities, this report recommended the re-arrangement of nation-wide higher education management (refer: The Council of Higher Education, Turkey (CofHE)) by taking global trends and national requirements into consideration, strategy-focused and performance-based budgeting, both at national and institutional level, the inclusion of internal and external stakeholders in decision-making, generating alternative income (by life-long education activities, distance education programmes, contract research for industry and business, universities’ own start -up companies, selling institutional/health/technical services, and leasing venues and royalties), collaboration with local actors,  Barış USLU    –  Pe gem Eğitim ve Öğretim Dergisi, 7 (2), 2017, 231-256 234 partnering with universities abroad, improving student/staff exchange/mobility, attracting international students, the accreditation, both nationally and internationally, of degree programmes, developing practical education content, and operating internal quality assurance systems. The broadest study related to the state of university autonomy around Europe was carried out by the EUA (2015c) based on the national and institutional evaluation reports until late 2010. In this study, the EUA (2015c) evaluated 29 countries from Europe within four dimensions. They used seven indicators for Organizational Autonomy  , 11 indicators for Financial Autonomy  , eight indicators for Staffing  Autonomy  , and 12 indicators for  Academic Autonomy  ; and their indicators have many conjoint criteria with the dimensions of organizational flexibility. They found that Institutional autonomy in Turkish universities was limited; their organisational autonomy was rated as ‘low’ (with the rank of 28th),  and their financial (23rd), staffing (21st), and academic autonomy (25th) as ‘medium low’. However, in terms of staffing autonomy, Turkey scored (with 60.00%) at the top of developing European countries. With the similar results, there are also several studies about the autonomy level of Turkish universities in terms of university-society-government-market/capital relations, finance, academic performance, and management (Çelik & Gür, 2014; Erdem, 2013; Özcan & Çakır, 2016; Öztürk, 2006).   Method Research Design In order to investigate organizational flexibility in universities, the research was designed in a case study pattern. Creswell (2007, p. 73) defined the case study as “a qualitative approach in which the investigator explores a bounded system (a case) or multiple bounded systems (cases) over time, through detailed, in- depth data collection…, and reports a case description and case - based themes”. In line with this definition, the research includes multiple cases of various Turkish universities via their reports by the EUA. Data Source The CofHE and 66 Turkish universities are members of the EUA (EUA, 2015d), and 32 universities already took institutional evaluation within the IEP (EUA, 2015b; Visakorpi et al., 2008). These universities involved in the IEP constituted the targeted study group. However, eight foundation universities were excluded from the study group because of financial, managerial, and structural differences between foundation and public universities. The researcher then aimed to include at least two public universities from each geographical region in Turkey, but there is no institutional evaluation report for any public universities in the southeast part of Anatolia. Thus, the researcher included two more public universities from Marmara and Central Anatolia into the study group instead of the Southeast Anatolian universities. Moreover, the researcher took the dates of the EUA’s evaluations into consideration while deciding the public universities from each region, but there are a limited number of Turkish universities which took the evaluation service from the EUA between 1999-2004 and 2011-16. As a result, 14 Turkish public universities (see Table 1) were selected for the analysis. Data Collection and Analysis The researcher first a ttempted to access the Turkish versions of the EUA’s institutional evaluation reports, but could collect a very limited number of Turkish reports. Therefore, the researcher decided to use the English versions of the reports. The researcher then accessed th e EUA’s reports from the EUA’s website (only including reports after 2009) and the EUA secretariat by requesting reports via e-mail before 2009.
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