Competing institutional logics in universities in the United Kingdom: schism in the church of reason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Theoretical literature on institutions emphasizes the importance of logics – shared rationalizations – in determining many aspects of organizations. In this literature, universities are often discussed as an example of an institution with a particularly strong and cohesive logic, one rooted in notions of academic excellence and the pursuit of universal knowledge. However, more recent literature has argued that multiple institutional logics often compete and conflict with one another in a single organization. In this paper, we use the notion of competing logics to examine how academics in the United Kingdom understand the university as an institution. We perform a factor analysis on questionnaires completed by academics to identify overarching rationalizations of universities. Our analysis suggests three competing institutional logics characterize universities: autonomy, utilitarianism and managerialism. We show these multiple logics produce competing models of the university as an institution, and we discuss the practical and theoretical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations


  • higher education
  • academics
  • institutional and neo-institutional theories
  • factor analysis
  • survey


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