The Myth of University Strategy. Market Niches and Organizational Careers of Russian Universities

  • Mikhail Sokolov European University at St. Petersburg
Keywords: University Management, organizational theory, sociology of higher education, higher education in Russia


Many attempts to build a typology of post-Soviet universities are based on the idea that a university development is an outcome of implementation of a strategy chosen by the organization’s managers. It is assumed that the choice of strategy is responsible for achievements and failures of a given organization. The article offers and statistically evaluates an alternative, non-voluntarist model of university evolution inspired by Carnegie School theory of organizations and a Lamarckian approach to organizational development. The model rests upon three assumptions: (i) organizations are economically motivated; (ii) they have no consolidated will, rather representing a conglomerate of internal agents that make decisions independently; (iii) organizations differ not so much in the nature of their decisions as in the chances for their successful implementation. These chances are predetermined by the starting  points of university evolution: legal status (state/private, main/branch campus), belonging to a major “organizational family” (teacher training universities, colleges of arts and culture, etc. andgeographic location. Universities do not choose a development vector but find themselves in a narrow corridor imposed by the environment. The data of the Monitoring of Education Markets and Organizations surveyis used to demonstrate how an awareness of these elementary characters allows correctly predicting distribution of 75% of universities across four main types of university economies  existing at the time. The 2013–2014 Monitoring of Educational Institution Performance indicates further that the distribution of gains from the “research turn” in state science policycan also be largely predicted from the universities’ ascriptive characters.


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How to Cite
Sokolov, Mikhail. 2017. “The Myth of University Strategy. Market Niches and Organizational Careers of Russian Universities”. Voprosy Obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no. 2 (June), 36-73.
Theoretical and Applied Research