Implementation of New Public Management in Norwegian UniversitiesMay 16 2013
The paper discusses the question of which cultural biases have been activated in the implementation of New Public Management in Norwegian universities. It attempts to demonstrate how cultural theory, institutional theory and studies of implementation of public policy can fruitfully be merged, and by analysing the perceived conflict between managerialism and basic academic values indicate how managerialism may be pursued in an academic context and how managerialism can be combated on justifications from this very logic in academia. The analysis is designed as a case study of 20 years’ policy formulation and implementation of Management by Objectives in Norwegian universities with data based on national policy development, and from two universities, thereof five faculties (more than 100 written documents and 10 qualitative interviews). Five different strategies of argumentation stemming from three different cultural biases are activated during the controversy on the implementation. Justification of the reform is based on three different cultural biases: a bureaucratic point of reference, a market based point of view and a group oriented point of reference. The opposition to the reform follows two strategies of argumentation: a market-based point of view and a group-oriented point of reference. Additional findings of the case study are empirical documentation policy formulation as a continuous process, a scrutiny of the thesis of normative mismatch between mangerialism and academic organisations, documentation of the application of arguments referring both to disciplinary references as well as administrative justifications of both reform and opposition, a long and complicated implementation process, an instrumental application of the reform and a troublesome concept of top-down implementation.