Factors affecting the content of universities’ mission statements: an analysis of the United Kingdom higher education system

Marco Seeber, Vitaliano Barberio, Jeroen Huisman, Jelle Mampaey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This article explores the factors affecting the content of universities' mission statements. We conceptualize missions as identity narratives, a type of symbolic representation of an organization. Based on the literature on organizational identity we argue that universities need to address two major challenges when crafting their mission statements, (i) to pursuit legitimacy in spite of multiple and competing expectations, and (ii) to properly balance similarity and distinctiveness from other universities. We identify factors that affect this strategic effort and develop hypotheses that we test in the empirical context of the United Kingdom's higher education system. Results show that (i) among competing expectations, universities choose claims that are plausible to external constituents and consistent with the values of internal members, and that (ii) they adopt claims similar to universities belonging to the same organizational form while differentiating from geographically closer universities in order to reduce competitive overlap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-244
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

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Keywords

  • DIFFERENTIATION
  • DYNAMICS
  • IDENTITY
  • ISOMORPHISM
  • LEGITIMACY
  • Mission statements
  • SEARCH
  • identity narratives
  • new institutionalism
  • organizational forms
  • strategy

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