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Award-Winning Research Led by University of Jyväskylä Researchers

The book ‘Re-Becoming Universities? Higher Education Institutions in Networked Knowledge Societies’ (Springer Press, 2016) was selected for the 2016 award recognizing a highly significant outcome in the field of international and comparative education. This award is from the Council for International Higher Education of the US-based Association for the Study of Higher Education.

The book was based on the study ‘Change in Networks, Higher Education and Knowledge Societies’ (CINHEKS), a six country comparative study, coordinated and supported by the European Science Foundation and funded by the national scientific funding agencies of participating countries and universities located in Finland, Germany, Portugal, UK, USA and Russia.

The book was co-edited by David M. Hoffman and Jussi Välimaa, members of the Higher Education Studies Research Team at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The award will be presented November 10th, in Columbus, Ohio, USA at the annual conference of ASHE.

While Finland is often mentioned in international discussion of assessments of student learning outcomes, like the OECD PISA survey, Hoffman underlines a sharp distinction between top-down, policy-driven and increasingly criticized assessments like PISA and the research receiving this award.

“Our book is an example of critical, counterintuitive, curiosity-driven research relevant to society’s most urgent challenges. What goes on in universities shapes – and is shaped by – what is going on in society. While this is not new information, our team’s work explains this complex relationship in ways that make it possible to comparatively problematize many issues policy makers and scholars increasingly avoid. The most important of these is the role higher education plays in increasing inequalities across several societies. Our book fills an important gap pointed out by international scholars like Simon Marginson, Susan Robertson, Riyad Shahjahan, Jenny Lee, Gary Rhoades, Shelia Slaughter, Brendan Cantwell, Terri Kim and Heinz Dieter-Meyer, who claim, in different ways, policy actors and scholars often cause or complicate social issues we should be studying and solving. Our book provides a new approach to re-thinking unquestioned assumptions that are not very difficult to locate using tools we are making freely available in our book. In more plain words, many government officials, university leaders and scholars spend too much time focused on their image, reputation, rankings and careers instead of tackling challenges. Society pays the price. This is not the same as saying there is not a lot of excellent scholarship and innovation going on, there is. However, there is also a lot of drama, dressed up as scholarship. Our book explains how to distinguish between the former, the latter and the real differences cutting across countries, universities, programs and faculty when it comes to the relationship between society and universities.” 

In the letter of notification about this award, Hoffman and Välimaa were told “The CIHE Awards Committee is impressed by the extent of outstanding scholarship developed in this volume, along with its wide range of contributions to theory, policy, and practice. The Awards Committee applauds ‘Re-Becoming Universities? Higher Education Institutions in Networked Knowledge Societies’ for a truly exemplary effort to analyze higher education in its relation to society in a comparative perspective bringing together original disciplinary approaches and rich empirical data.”

The CINHEKS study was focused on the ways in which contemporary higher education institutions are networked within and between countries and what this means for contemporary societies. Hoffman, who will accept the award on behalf of the 20 authors who authored the 13-chapter study, said that the book breaks new ground in research design, the development of theory, advances in methodology, methods, research practices, open science and in terms of empirical results.

For more information:

Docent David M. Hoffman, +358-40-805 4247, david.hoffman@jyu.fi

Professor Jussi Välimaa, tel. +358 400 248 112, jussi.p.valimaa@jyu.fi

Book Information:

David M. Hoffman Jussi Välimaa (Eds.): Re-Becoming Universities? Higher Education Institutions in Networked Knowledge Societies. Springer 2016. http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789401773683

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