A Qualitative Exploration of the Microfoundations of Institutional Theory: Reflections from Higher Education Context


HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume:
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1057/s41307-021-00246-w
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, EBSCO Education Source, Educational research abstracts (ERA), ERIC (Education Resources Information Center), PAIS International, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, DIALNET
  • Keywords: Microinstitutionalism, Organisational identity, Higher education change, Sensemaking and sense giving, New institutionalism, ORGANIZATIONAL IDENTITY, SENSEMAKING, UNIVERSITY, CULTURE, NEOLIBERALISM, RESISTANCE, LEADERSHIP, ASSURANCE, AGENCY
  • Kocaeli University Affiliated: Yes


In this critical case study, we had the opportunity to observe how institutional forces and human agency represented by organisational actors' shared perception of identity negotiate their differences over their definitions of quality in higher education. In other words, we examined how the organisational identity of a research university interplayed with the forces that exist in the so-called neoliberal institutional environment. By doing that, we aimed to contribute to the theoretical debate over the microfoundations of new institutionalism, practice of higher education policy making/implementation, and convergence/divergence processes. Exploring the role of organisational identity as an intraorganisational element, this study shows that organisational identity can act as a powerful filter that reduces interaction with institutional field and buffers isomorphic pressures or can change manifesting itself as shifting identity labels. Our findings also suggest that change initiatives are not directly translated into organisational practices and new identity claims are not immediately embraced by organisational members. It has also been evidenced that a further and more comprehensive understanding of identity labels and central elements of organisational identity and how each is influenced in the sensemaking process is required.