Comprehending the International Initiatives of Universities: A Taxonomy of Modes of Engagement and Institutional Logics, by Richard J. Edelstein and John Aubrey Douglass


The paper examines the behavior of universities at the level of the individual institution to create a taxonomy of actions and logics used to initiate international activities, engagements, and academic programs. The taxonomy is organized utilizing the concepts of activity clusters, modes of engagement, and institutional logics. Its purpose is to provide a framework for future research as well as a tool for scholars and practitioners to better analyze and understand what has become a rush by many universities to become more engaged globally. After a brief discussion of the importance of contextual variables such as academic discipline, academic program level, and the prestige hierarchy, the specific characteristics of the university as a social organization are considered. A central assumption is that the most meaningful and successful change in the university occurs when the decentralized nature of the organization and the significant formal and informal authority of faculty and academic staff is recognized and incorporated into decision processes in real and meaningful ways. The taxonomy of actions and logics is conceptualized as a list of modes of engagement that can be organized into seven clusters of activity. Clusters include individual faculty initiatives; the management of institutional demography; mobility initiatives; curricular and pedagogical change; transnational institutional engagements; network building; and campus culture, ethos, and leadership. Nine institutional logics are described and proposed as possible explanatory variables as to how universities interpret their global environment and justify strategies, policies, and actions they undertake. International and global realities have become a central strategic concern for many universities. The framework offered in this article is intended to help support empirical research on strategies, actions and logics at the institutional level and an on-going research project by the authors.

Publication date: 
December 1, 2012
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
COMPREHENDING THE INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES OF UNIVERSITIES: A Taxonomy of Modes of Engagement and Institutional Logics by Richard J. Edelstein and John Aubrey Douglass. CSHE.19.12 (December 2012)