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Deconstructive collegiality or just another governance form?

Conference contribution
Authors Ulla Eriksson-Zetterquist
Kerstin Sahlin
Published in The 23rd Nordic Academy of Mangement Research, Copenhagen 12-14 August, 2015
Publication year 2015
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Language en
Subject categories Business Administration


During recent years, collegiality has been hotly debated, primarily as a part of the reforms implemented by the universities. Study after study shows that this is a global rather than a local issue. Above all, a critical and questioning attitude has been adopted as regards the fact that collegiality seems to be under pressure to move aside in favour of governance forms like management and bureaucracy (Tuchman, 2009; Björk, 2013). When collegiality is described by its advocates, it generally stands out as an idealistic form whereby scientific dialogue and its inbuilt form of reaching agreement are responsible for progress. This version mirrors university work that is to be characterised by collaboration, by friendliness, and preferably also by non-competitive research (Tuchman, 2009; Jemielniak and Greenwood, 2013). Those who are critical of collegiality, emphasise that it is a governance form which is long-winded, slow, and antiquated. When there are changes in the demands made on professional organisations by the outside world, there is no longer any time for the slow, searching dialogue in which everyone’s voice is heard and given space. Organisations and agencies have become bigger and it is not practically possible to discuss every detail. On top of this, the critics ask questions like – Has the collegial dialogue ever meant that everyone is given space? Was everyone’s voice heard? Were all points of view really put to the test in a reasonable way, or was it possibly the case that those with influence got to set the agenda? Some questions that both the critics of collegiality and its advocates touch upon relate to the potential of the governance form of collegiality, but also its potential disadvantages. While the advantages of collegiality have been put forward in a series of later studies, fewer have reviewed its downsides. Is it a friendly and care-taking governance form, or is it a way for some to gain influence at the expense of others? Does it support collaboration, or is it a forum for cliques? On the basis of previous studies of collegiality, and by means of comparing the governance form of collegiality with other governance forms, e.g. bureaucracy and management, the purpose of this essay is to study the potential deconstructivity forming part of collegiality as a governance form. We start off with an introduction of the content of the governance form of collegiality and then we present the disadvantages that have been put forward concerning this governance form. Since all governance forms contain strengths and weaknesses, we subsequently make a comparison between bureaucracy, management, and collegiality in order to investigate what the specific disadvantages of collegiality are.

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