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The Organisation of Academic Knowledge: A Comparative Perspective Author(s): Tight Malcolm Source: Higher Education, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec.

, 2003), pp. 389-410 Published by: Springer Stable URL: Accessed: 13/09/2009 16:58
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Higher Education 46: 389-410,2003. ? 2003 KluwerAcademic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.


The organisation of academic knowledge: A comparative perspective
CoventryCV4 7AL(E-mail: Departmentof ContinuingEducation, Universityof Warwick, ac. m.tight@ uk) warwick.

Abstract. How is academic knowledge organized?Does this vary from countryto country, and, if so, how? This paper explores these questions throughan examinationof some of the an analysis is 2001. In particular, data includedin the CommonwealthUniversitiesYearbook schools and/or presentedof the differentnames given to basic academicunits (departments, forms faculties)in Australia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.Evidenceis providedregarding of institutionalorganization,and of the varying strengthof differentdisciplines or fields of study. Keywords: academicunits, disciplines, diversity,fields of study,knowledge forms,university organisation

Introduction Standard models of the research process suggest a seamless and linear progression from the development of research questions through literature review, methodological design, data collection, data analysis to writing up and dissemination (see, for example, the discussion in Blaxter, Hughes and Tight 2001, pp. 6-9). In practice, of course, it rarely happens like that: social research may start from, and finish at, any of these stages, may jump back and forwards between them, and will typically involve several activities being progressed contemporaneously. The piece of research reported in this article is a case in point. There was no direct data collection involved, as it exploits an existing data set. The study did not start from research questions, but rather from the feeling that a particular publication, of which I had been vaguely aware for many years, might offer interesting data for analysis. And the data analysis was essentially completed before any formal literature review was attempted, so that I went to the literature looking for possible explanatory frameworks for what I had found. This article does, however, relate to a general area of interest of mine: the nature of academic work, institutions and life (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight

units or faculties (universities. It also seemed somewhat apposite to focus on the 2001 of the state of higher education at the end of the edition. For this study.Nigeria and the United Kingdom respectivelytake up 240. 'a directoryto the universitiesof the [British]Commonwealthand the handbookof their association'. This study makes use of the 2001 Yearbook (Associationof CommonwealthUniversities2001). adopt a variety of forms of organisationand associated nomenclatures). . institution by institution. 34% of the total in all. its departments.databaseswere createdfrom the listings for the threecountries selected. that is.schools. either because they were not membersof the Association of CommonwealthUniversities. Tight 2000). these are referredto as 'basic academic units'. This informationwas not available for a small minority of universitiesor colleges. with informationalso providedon 'special [typically research]centres'.Australia. The remainderof the article is organisedin foursections.but chiefly because it was not felt to be necessary for the purposesof the study.or because they did not providethe full details requiredin time for publication.and possible interpretative for the patternsfound are explored.In the remainderof this article. The two volumes of the 2001 Yearbooktotal 2464 pages in length.390 MALCOLM TIGHT 1998a. The entries for Australia. Nigeria and the United Kingdom . It offers an analysis of the contemporary organisation of academicknowledge in universitiesin three countries. Methodology Each year the Association of CommonwealthUniversitiespublishes a Yearbook.No attemptwas made to 'patch'the databaseby collecting information on these institutionsdirectly:partlybecause this would compromise the consistency of the data.Then the frameworks results of the analysis are presented.Each institution'sentry lists its 'academic units'. and so did not make returnsfor the Yearbook.Finally some conclusions and directions for furtherresearchof this kind are offered. These entries seek to provide comprehensiveinformationon the organisationand staffing of all institutions of higher educationin the countriesconcerned.the dataset andmethodologyused aredescribed. 1998b.of course. 74 and 512 pages. Details are given of all academic staff of senior lecturerlevel or above. tabulatingthe titles of all the basic academic units. First. as representative twentieth century and/or the start of the twenty-first(whichever way you calculateyour calendar). the latest availableat the time of this is expressed throughthe names given to basic academic units.

a numberof rules were followed. with 25 universitiesand 931 basic academic units. it may be that significantorganisationalresponsibilityis exercised at a lower level in the hierarchythan the basic academicunit identified. and indeed other cases. with 104 universities and 3022 basic academicunits included. or which served wholly to supportacademic activities across the institution(e.While the Yearbookmust include some errors. In these. of course. However.g. The introductory'Notes to the User' included in the Commonwealth UniversitiesYearbookstress the care with which the informationit contains is compiled. language centres and staff development units).all eithermulti-siteinstitutions or ones thathad experiencedrecentamalgamations . In the few cases where an institutionhad two basic academicunits with the same title . were excluded: these were usually separatelylisted in the Yearbook.They range in size from Nigeria.these appear. By shouldbe stressedthat.The mean numberof units per universitywas similar.therefore. to the United Kingdom.Units whose function was wholly researchfocused. Only basic 'academic'units were included. . in some cases using a broaderschool or faculty structureratherthan the departmental structureevident in the majorityof the older universities.perhapssurprisingly were a few .given the magnitude of the database.rangingoverall from a minimumof 3 to a maximumof 114. While most errors have hopefully been correctedthroughthe variouscheckingproceduresI undertook. Among the trendsevident was the tendencyfor older universitiesto have larger numbers of basic academic units..newer universitiestend to have fewer basic academic units. with a similarrangein the three databases. some will not have been pickedup.were also excluded. particularlythose with medical schools.while they might affectthe detail of the analysis. Similar reservationsmust be made with regardto the databasesI have compiled from the Yearbook.any remainingerrors.It may also be the case.THE ORGANISATION OF ACADEMICKNOWLEDGE 391 In compiling the databases. there Any listed basic academicunits thathad no staff . varying from 29 in the United Kingdom to 37 in Nigeria. of course.only one was included. Results Table 1 gives basic informationon the size of the three nationaldatabases be relatively few and small in nature. but the effects of this on the analysis shouldnot be significant. that some institutionsdo not update their informationas promptlyor fully as they might. computercentres.would almost certainlyhave no impacton its conclusions.A numberof checks againstinformationcontainedon university web-sites confirmed its accuracy.

Indeed.very few titles are to be found in half or more of the universities in any one system.5 1-20 59. There were a total of nine in the case of Nigeria . (%) titles common to half or more universities 1309 737 1.butjust one in the case of the United Kingdom.2 1-56 75. An examinationof the databasessuggests that there are four immediate explanationsfor the variabilityin the titles given to basic academicunits: . Urban Planning. appearsto have the most 'standardised' titles . Indigenous Health Studies.392 MALCOLM TIGHT Table1. Voice and Wildlife & Fisheries Management. Numbersof universitiesand basic academicunits by country Country Australia Nigeria United Kingdom Universities 40 25 104 Basic academicunits 1309 931 3022 Mean units/university (range) 33 37 29 (4-114) (7-85) (3-87) Table2. Numbersof basic academic units and unit titles Australia No.Quality Management. unit titles Mean units/title Range in units/title % uniquetitles No. Keyboard. ShariaLaw.2 9(2. shows how this works out in practice.A series of less common titles are displayed alongside Geography (a title used by 34 institutions)and German(found in 15 institutions).5) Nigeria 931 373 2. General and FoundationStudies.0) One finding which was immediately striking during the compilation of the databases was the relatively large number of different basic academic unit titles (see Table 2).These included such novelties as Akkadian.4) United Kingdom 3022 1399 2. basic academicunits No. which lists the 39 basic academic unit titles beginning with the letter 'G' in the United Kingdom database.Marine Technology. ranging from 373 in Nigeria to 1399 in the United Kingdom.7 4 (0. English Local History. Table 3. of the threecountriesexaminedhere.8 1-27 75. Conversely.which. Chinese Medicine. the great majority of basic academic unit titles were unique within their national system: from 59% in Nigeria to 76% in Australia. Orthoptics.3 1 (0.

byzantine Numberof units 2 1 1 1 5 3 1 1 1 3 2 1 2 34 1 2 1 1 1 1 4 4 1 1 1 1 8 15 2 5 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 1 393 . byzantineand modern and studies roman Greek. UnitedKingdom Basic academicunit title Gastroenterology and hepatology Gastroenterology Gastrointestinal surgery Generallinguistics Generalpractice Generalpracticeand primarycare Generalpracticeand primaryhealthcare Generalpracticeand public health Generalsurgery Genetics medicine Genito-Urinary and sciences Geographical environmental sciences Geographical Geography Geographyand archaeology Geographyand earthsciences Geographyand environment sciences Geographyand environmental and geosciences Geography Geographyand topographicscience Geological sciences Geology Geology and geophysics Geology and petroleumgeology Geomaticengineering Geomatics Geriatricmedicine German Germanlanguage and literature Germanstudies Germanicstudies Gerontologicaland continuingcare nursing Gerontology Government Graphicdesign Greek Greekand latin Greeklanguageand literature. Basic academicunittitles beginningwith the Letter'G'.KNOWLEDGE THEORGANISATION OFACADEMIC Table3.

in most cases.biological sciences.and.we have GermanLanguageandLiterature.medicine.economics. the Australianand United Kingdom lists include both business and management. appearonly slightly furtherdown the popularitylisting for the thirdsystem. Medical and scientific subjectsfeaturemore stronglyin the Nigerianlist.are common to two of the three systems studied. geography. Thus.mechanical engineering. including 'Gerontologicaland Continuing Care' Nursing and Medicine. * The list for Nigeria.are common to all three This was done by grouping alternative. Studies and GermanicStudies. education. psychology. with * . as in the cases of 'General' Linguisticsand 'General'Surgery. * Some titles include qualifying terms.394 MALCOLM TIGHT Alternativetitles are present alongside the most common ones. Thus. engineering.and illustratesa numberof points: * Of the 34 titles included in the table. German as well as German. management. * Individuallists include what might be thought of as closely related or overlappingbasic academic unit titles. Thus. as well as Geology. by contrast. history and physics .law. only 5 . however .of Geographyand Archaeology.however.while the Australianlist also has separate entries for both accounting & financeand accounting. obstetricsand gynaecology. and 9 with that for the United Kingdom. These combinationsmay reachacross disciplinaryboundaries. civil engineering.philosophy. * Others identify particularspecialisms within disciplines or fields of study. * Another 16 titles. 'Genito-Urinary' Clearly. sharing 14 titles. namely to group togethercognate basic academic unit titles so as to producea shorterlist of the most common subjects (I will use the term 'subjects' in preferenceto 'disciplines' or 'fields of study' for the remainderof this section. in the case. * Many titles are combinations.English. The last point suggests a furtherdirection for analysis. surgery .business. chemistry. qualifying and specialist titles together under the most common titles. Social science subjects feature strongly in both of these lists. recognising that the latter are contested terms). we have Geology and Geophysics and Geology and PetroleumGeology.some basic academicunit titles aremuch morepopularthan others. Table 4 lists the twenty most popularfor the three national systems studied. * The lists for Australia and the United Kingdom are very similar. shares only 8 titles with that for Australia. for example.

10. 17. 8. 11. 13. 5. 15. The most popularbasic academicunit titles Australia 1. 14.Table4. 12. 4. 7. Nigeria physics (20) chemistry(18) biochemistry(16) civil engineering(16) economics (15) history (15) mechanicalengineering(15) political science (14) sociology (13) anatomy(12) medicine (12) obstetrics& gynaecology (12) surgery(12) biological sciences (11) physiology (11) animalscience (10) geography(10) economics & ext. (9) agricultural geology (9) pharmacology(9) United Kingdom law (56) 2. 19. 18. 6. 9. 16. 20. management(27) law (25) education(22) psychology (22) economics (17) nursing(17) business (15) philosophy (14) chemistry(12) music (11) accounting& finance(10) English (10) history (10) public health (10) accounting(9) biological sciences (9) marketing(9) medicine (9) surgery(9) civil engineering(8) engineering(8) physics (8) psychology (44) economics (42) education(40) chemistry(37) music (36) geography(34) business (33) history (33) philosophy (29) mathematics(28) engineering(27) English (26) biological sciences (25) physics (25) computerscience (23) management(23) sociology (23) mechanicalengineering(20) obstetrics& gynaecology (2 . 3.

A comparison between this table and Table 4 reveals both similaritiesand differences. the title more commonly used in Australiaand the United Kingdom. in the case of Nigeria. thus. For example. a definitivemap of academicknowledge .and I am certainly not seeking to produce. medicine.Politics is a subjectthatis rife with alternative.I am not here concerned. for example. The overallresultsof the groupingexercise are displayedin Table6. and General Practice & Public Health were all initially groupedwith General Practice. the titles GeneralPractice& Primary accommodateboth generic basic academicunit titles and minorspecialist titles that could not be combined with other subjects. includingeducation. Some might wish to put certain specialisms into other subject groupings.specialisms and combinationsrelativelyuncommon (88% of the units included have the title 'Philosophy'). has absorbed what might be seen as a separate. as a large subject. languages & area an example of a fairly coherent subject.but this would be unlikely to change the overallresults much. subject.arts. and business. though smaller. Pharmacology and Pharmacy. to take examples from Table 3 again. General Practice was eventually amalgamatedinto another subject called PrimaryCare.Astronomy.396 MALCOLM TIGHT combinationtitles allocatedto what was interpreted as the dominantelement of the combination. the details of Table 5 might be the subject of debate. Subjecttitles were standardisedbetween the three systems. at least in terms of unit titles. be the subjectof some debate. Six faculties were recognised alongside the subjects .but with the overallpatterns. Philosophy. by contrast. Amalgamations continueduntilno subjectcontainedfewer than 10 basic academicunits. Table 5 provides four examples of the subject amalgamationsproduced. however. whereas Genetics became part of the faculty groupingMedicine. were so closely connected in the naming of basic academicunits that they had to be amalgamated togetheras one. engineering. to go back to Table 3.which might be seen as separatesubjects. Many subjects appear high up in both tables. political science was re-labelled as politics. as if such a thing were possible. specialist and combinatorytitles (only 35% of the units have the title 'Politics'). which lists the leading 34 subjects and the faculty groups identified in terms of popularityfor each of the three systems. Of course. for the United Kingdom database. and each system had the same numberof subjects. of course. with the fine detail . Others might argue that the subjects identified are too few or many in number. General Practice & Primary Health Care. Thus. Others.The details of the allocation process might.and illustratesa numberof the grouping processes involved. science and social sciences . with variants. Thus.such .

PoliticalStudies (2). Theraand and (5). Politics. Philosophy. chemistry. Clinical Pharmacologyand Therapeutics(1). Pharmacy Toxicology (1). Still others. thoughtherearenow moreof the formeras a resultof the groupingprocessundertaken. Pharmacy peutics and PharmaceuticalScience (1). Pharmacy. Politics (17).such as biological sciences and management have moved up the table. there are 52 different subjects identified in all. ExperimentalPhysics (1). Pharmacology. Physical Sciences (3). Particleand Nuclear Physics (1). such as health sciences and art & design . PharmacologicalSciences and Toxicology (1). (figuresin parenthesesindicatethe numberof basic academicunit titles involved). Clinical Physics (1). InternationalPolitics (1). Physics and Applied Physics (1).history and psychology . Politics (49): Government (5). Philosophical Studies (1).but have slipped down the table. Politics and CommunicationStudies (1). Biomedical and Physical Sciences (1). of which 18 . Pharmacology and Neurosciences(1). Thus: With 34 subjects listed for each system. InternationalRelations (2). PharmacologicalSciences (1). Space and Climate Physics (1). Local GovernmentStudies (1). Pharmaceutics (1). Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry(1). Philosophy(29). Policy Studies and Criminology (1). Political Science and InternationalStudies (1). Examplesof Subjectsand ComponentBasic AcademicUnit Titles: United Kingdom Pharmacologyand Pharmacy(31): Clinical Pharmacology(3).accounting & finance.which are combinationsof largenumberof relatedacademicunitswith differenttitles now appearfor the firsttime high up Table6. TheoreticalPhysics (2). CondensedMatterPhysics (1). PoliticalTheoryandGovernment (1). Oceanic and PlanetaryPhysics (1). Pharmacy Chemistry(1). there are similarities and differences between the three nationallists includedin Table6. Physics (53): Astronomy(2). International(1). as chemistry. civil engineering. Politics andInternational Studies (2).Logic and Scientific Method(1). International Studies (1). Atmospheric. International Relations and Politics (2). educa- . Politics and ContemRelations(3). Politics andInternational poraryHistory(1). Atomic and LaserPhysics (1). Philosophy (33): Logic and Metaphysics (1). biological sciences.OFACADEMIC THEORGANISATION KNOWLEDGE 397 Table5.still appear. Politics and Social Research (1). Politics and Philosophy (1). Astronomyand Space Physics (1). Pharmacologyand Therapeutics(1). Pharmacy and Pharmacology (1). business. Pharmacology(7). Relationsand the Environment International (1). Pharmaceutical Sciences (3). Pharmacologyand Clinical Pharmacology(1). Physics (25). Politics and Sociology (1). economics. Policy Studies (2). Physics and Astronomy(11). Once again. Moral Philosophy (1). Politics and Asian Studies (1). Astrophysics(1). And others.

mathematics(34) 9. education(62) 2. leisure. architecture (18) 22. music (34) 10. sport & tourism(21) 20. economics (31) 12. marketing(18) 23. psychology (30) 15. law (36) 6. computerscience (27) 16. communication& media (24) 17. informationsystems (22) 18. Nigeria education(59) law (40) (37) agriculture crop science/forestry(33) pharmacology& pharmacy(32) biological sciences (30) business (28) mathematics(26) animalscience (23) physics (23) chemistry(22) health sciences (20) accounting& finance (19) politics (19) biochemistry(18) geography(18) history(18) sociology (18) veterinarymedicine (18) civil engineering(17) economics (17) electrical & electronicengineering(17) geology (17) anatomy(16) mechanicalengineering(16) United Kingdom health sciences (117) education(98) management(81) computerscience (80) mathematics(79) business (74) art & design (73) biological sciences (71) psychology (65) history (64) law (63) economics (61) chemistry(57) physics (53) English (52) music (52) electronic & electrical engineering( politics (49) nursing(48) geography(44) surgery(42) dentistry(41) mechanicalengineering(39) public health (38) accounting& finance (35) . history (21) 19.Table6. mechanicalengineering(16) Table continuedon next page. nursing(30) 14. chemistry(17) 24. management(30) 13. business(47) 3. art & design (41) 5. agriculture(35) 8. accounting& finance(35) 7. The Most PopularSubjectand FacultyTitles (afteramalgamation) Australia (a) Subjects 1. health sciences (46) 4. electrical & electronicengineering(19) 21. biological sciences (33) 11. English (16) 25.

40) arts (s. 37) science (g. 51) arts(s. 21) languages/areastudies (g. 12) medicine (g. 31. philosophy(16) physics (16) civil engineering(15) politics (15) public health(15) pharmacology& pharmacy(14) Asian studies (13) geography(13) biomedicalsciences (12) surgery(16) English (13) obstetrics& gynaecology (12) physiology (12) microbiology(11) pathology(11) religious studies (11) chemicalpathology (10) paediatrics(10) Nigeria engineering(s. (the abbreviations's' and 'g' indicate specialist and generic titles). 19) engineering(g. 9) other (5) (figures in bracketsindicatethe numberof units includedin each subject). 53) medicine (s. 131) engineering(s. 32. 5) engineering(g. 38) social sciences (g. 113) science (s. 13) science (g. 1) science (g. 30. 61) social sciences (s. 422) languages/areastudies (s. 89) medicine (g. . 27) arts (g. 23) medicine (g. 93) arts(s.l) built environment(35) philosophy (33) sociology (33) pharmacology& pharmacy(31) civil engineering(29) communication& media (28) religious studies (27) architecture (26) continuingeducation(26) United Kingdom medicine (s. 29. 180) social sciences (s. 21) studies (s. 58) engineering(s. 100) science (s. 15) other (7) Australia (b) Faculties medicine (s. 28. 22) arts (g. 33. 9) languages/area science (s. 34. 51) languages/areastudies (g. 19) languages/area other(12) studies (g. Continued 26. 2) arts(g. 10) social sciences (g. 49) languages/areastudies (s.Table6. 27) social sciences (s. 44) engineering(g. 27.

By contrast. physiology. biomedical sciences. thatthese subjectsdo not exist in the othersystems. in the United Kingdom listing. mechanical engineering. An examinationof Table7 reveals a numberof trends: * Some popularsubjects appearhigh in coherence in all three systems. thereare 56 basic academicunits with the title 'law'. mathematics. leisure.pathology.the large numberof titles thathave been amalgamated into faculty groupings ratherthan subjects. whether in Australia. paediatrics. 5 to Australia (Asian studies. marketing)and 3 to the United Kingdom (builtenvironment. however.For example.13. an analysisof Table6 shows that the Australianand British systems are the most similar. civil engineering and economics departmentsare almost always called just that. a measure of the relative coherence of subjecttitles may be produced. If the numberof units included in each of the subjects groupingslisted in Table 6 is divided by the number of units having the most popular basic academic unit title within that grouping.while the Nigerian and United Kingdomsystems have 21 in common. The greateremphasis on applied sciences and medical specialities in the Nigeriansystem is evident.the Australianand Nigeriansystems have only 19 subjectsin common. chemistry. law.geology. As with the analysisof basic academicunit titles. microbiology. with 28 out of 34 subjectsin common. politics .400 MALCOLM TIGHT * * * tion. of course. 20 of the 52 subjectslisted areuniqueto one of the threesystems: 12 to Nigeria (anatomy.animal science. pharmacology & pharmacy. Thus. particularly Note.This is not to say. veterinarymedicine). electrical & electronic engineering. which accommodatea huge numberof relativelysmall specialisms. biological .dentistry). sport & tourism.chemical pathology. English. crop science/forestry. Table7 providesdetails of these calculationsfor the 18 subjects common to all threesystems. This is particularlyso in the case of medicine. continuingeducation. informationsystems. biochemistry. history. but that in they are relativelyless common there.are common to all three systems. giving a measurefor coherenceof 63/56 = 1.physics. and for languages & area studies in the United Kingdomcase. * Other popular subjects appear less coherent in all three systems. Thus. obstetrics & gynaecology. electrical & electronic sciences. and have been amalgamated other subject or faculty groupings in Table 6. Nigeria or the United Kingdom. geography. and 63 units are groupedunderthatsubjecttitle in Table6.

31) .45) chemistry(1.82) biological sciences (2.63) geography(1.88) accounting& finance (2.92) electrical & electronic engineering(4.88) physics (2.00) history (2.43) health sciences (7.13) accounting& finance(3.94) mechanicalengineering(1.50) pharmacology& pharmacy(3.33) mathematics(4.50) biological sciences (3.33) health sciences (7.Table7.73) accounting& finance(3.60) economics (1.22) politics (1.24) education(2. The Most and Least CoherentSubjectTitles Australia chemistry(1.54) civil engineering(1.84) politics (2.25) electrical& electronicengineering(3.13) physics (1.00) healthsciences (4. pharmacology& pharmacy(4.75) geography(4.12) business (2.95) English (2.86) electrical & electronicengineering(6.45) mathematics(2.00) physics (2.40) business (4.82) civil engineering(1.40) law (8.15) history(1.10) mechanicalengineering(2.82) business (3.13) geography(1.44) English (1.36) English (1.93) history (1.29) economics (1.00) pharmacology& pharmacy(6.20) chemistry(1.80) United Kingdom law (1.80) biological sciences (2.06) mechanicalengineering(1.07) economics (1.42) law (1.17) mathematics(3.00) education(11.67) education(2.67) Nigeria civil engineering(1.67) politics (3.

with what they term the basic unit lying between the individualacademic and the institution(their fourth level is. Thus. might we furtherinterpretthis dataand analysis? Possibleinterpretative frameworks Withinthe corpusof researchand writingon highereducation. Second.however. though thereis little that addresses the issues raised specifically. operationand positioning of basic academicunits. they appearunder a wide range of titles in Australia(typically geographyand somethingelse). 40) Indeed. 1996). Perhapsmost interesting. Similarly.There was an almost limitless variationas regards mattersof detail.they developed over the centuries. one obvious extension to the analysis presented here would be to examineearliereditions of the CommonwealthUniversitiesYearbook. propertyand/orpublic law). then.while law departments arealmostalways calledjust thatin Australiaandthe United Kingdom.and to chartthe rise and fall of basic academicunit titles over the years. industrial.g. patternsreported First.They define 'basic unit' in the following terms: . de Ridder-Symoens1992. Several of these strandswill be identifiedand of the briefly explored for what they might suggest about the interpretation above.Islamic. while geography are usually called just thatin both Nigeria and the United departments Kingdom. of course. Thus. their relative status and interrelationshipswithin universities(e.therearemany butinterwovenstrandsthatrelateto the issue being consideredhere. disparate the organisationof academicknowledge. studies of the contemporaryorganisationof higher education have much to tell us about the functions.Thus. private.(1992. the literatureon the history of higher educationis useful in tracing the development of academic structures. How. Vergercomments: There is little point at this stage in the argumentin lingering any longer over this question of the structures and internal subdivisions of the medieval universities..are the subject titles which appear coherentin some system lists but not in others. but part of a continuinghistorical trend. p. the centralauthority). Becher and Koganhave presenteda four level 'model of higher education'. commercial. they go under a variety of titles in Nigeria (typically more specialist. indeed. as in the cases of business. This literaturealso suggests that the diversityin basic academic unit titles found at the present time is nothing new. the pluralityor combinationevident in their subject titles would suggest).402 MALCOLM TIGHT sciences andpharmacology undera varietyof titles & pharmacy appear (as.

such studies also foregroundthe importance of change: While it is convenientin some contextsto representdisciplinesas clearly and reasonablystable entities. Huisman. 16) A varietyof termshave been coined to describe and explainthese processes.. a separatelyaccountedbudget). Their identifying characteristicswould normally include an administrativeexistence (a designated head or chairman[sic].the databasesanalysed here include examples of each of these types of organisation. pp. p. p. studies of disciplinary cultures help to explain how academic knowledge develops and is disseminated within universities (e. includingreductionism of the Fourth.g. graduate usually some provisionfor graduate and sometimesa collective researchactivity).this is not a hardtogethera numberof cognate departments. as the individual subject department.rather than the faculty bringing However. 1999. 'course teams' and the like.a physical existence (an identifiableset of premises).THE ORGANISATION OF ACADEMICKNOWLEDGE 403 By basic units we mean the smallest component elements which have a corporatelife of their own. 20-21) No one is about to find a way to stop the division of knowledge in academic society. Becher 1989.analyses diversityof academicinstitutionsand systems . Braxtonand his study . it has to be acknowledged distinguishable that they are subject to both historical and geographicalvariation. As well as emphasisingthe primacyof the discipline in the working lives of academics. has its impact on the identitiesandculturalcharacteristics of disciplines. Thus.a featurewhich 'is generallyagreedto be a desirablething' (HigherEducation FundingCouncilfor England2000. Neumann 2001). 86) They go on to note some of the variationsin the natureof basic units: In traditional the basic unit would usually be taken universitystructures. Becherand Trowler2001. since some long-established universities use the term 'faculty' where others would use 'department'. (Becher 1989.suggest some of the processes by which such disciplinary developmentstakeplace. (Peacocke 1985) and finalisation(Fuller2000). and-fast rule. 3) . Third. (ibid) As indicated. (Clark1983..The changing natureof knowledge domains over time.Some more recent units have developed which the constituentelements are more broadlybased 'schools of study'.. p.andan academicexistence (a rangeof underwork trainingprogrammes. (1992.

.. effectively if not constitutionally. undergraduate graduate)or mode of study (i.e. by measureseitherof institutionalsize (studentrecruitment. as modularand credit systems have become more popular.. For example. More recently.and of the influence of basic academic unit diversityupon this. Sixth.. the 'softer' the took place. Thus Scott has arguedthat: The tendency for broadlybased faculties to be brokendown. the number of relatively small. or of institutionalspecialisation. has had two main impacts on institutions themselves: First. Muchof this differentiation was explained annualincome).404 MALCOLMTIGHT of higher education programmesin the Netherlandsover a 20 year period. in terms of subject area (with a focus on or postarts.but the significance of the medical school in universitystatusremainsstrong.. 170) . the number discipline.. p. found that: .Since that time. in size as the system has expanded.the more processes of differentiation of processes of differentiation time increased. into reductionistdepartments has been reversedas more and more universities have developed looser academic structures based on schools. they have had to develop theirown distinctivemissions. establishingstill looser frameworkswhich embraceschools. p. Second. level (i. 159) Massification.. 1974-1993. Fifth. institutionshave become much more complex. decreasingor fluctuatingfirst-yearstudentnumbersencouragestudy programme actors to establish new specializations in existing study programmes and to establish new study programmes . 199) through It would not be difficultto imaginemechanismsby which such differentiation at the study programme level could be translated to basic academicunits. (1995. (ibid. p. often built aroundtheme categories such as European studies or environmentalsciences. departments and individualacademicprogrammes. in a multivariate analysisof institutionaldatafor 1992/93 publishedby the Higher EducationFundingCouncil for England. full-time or part-time). universitytypologies offer evidence of institutionalvariety. studies of the transitionfrom elite to mass systems of highereducation suggest that this is having an impact on the organisationof academic knowledge.e. in Scott's view.educationor medicine most common). specialist arts or education colleges has been reduced throughamalgamation.I identified16 majortypes of higher educationinstitution(Tight 1996)..(1995.some institutionshave gone further. and in scope as it has become more heterogeneous.

Delanty 2001. but often isolated. 1994.. at least for me. generated within a disciplinary.the role of disciplines and the related structureof faculties and departments. Scott and Gibbons 2001).or corporate laboratories. institutionsexternalto the university. threebasic questions: 1.g. Seventh. and finally for present purposes. the developmentof new formsof basic academicunitsunderthe influenceof. which we will call Mode 1.(2001. whether universities. Henkel and Kehm. well as the disciplinary organisationof curricula. Why does there appearto be so much diversity in the naming of basic academicunits? 2. ..THE ORGANISATION OF ACADEMICKNOWLEDGE 405 Such trendscould readilylead to an increasednumberand diversityof basic academicunits within institutions.concluded that: At most universities. How does the dataanalysissupportor questionthe arguments putforward in the literature? In this section I will addressthese questionsin turn. there is the literatureon the changingnatureof knowledgeand the place of the universityin society (e. context. Much has been made in this literature of the developmentof 'mode 2' knowledge: By contrast with traditionalknowledge. Nowotny.Askling.primarily cognitive. p.are still strong. 348-349) Conclusions The data analysis presentedin this articleposes.sometimes bigger. Mode 2 social and economic knowledge is created in broader. is profound and calls into question the adequacy of familiar knowledge producing institutions. 1) The implications of these developments would include. Typical for most institutionsincluded in our sample was lifelong learning policy in which initiatives and activities were either left to individual academic staff members or concentrated in mostly smaller. and in co-operation with. Why does it vary between countries? The excursionjust made amongst a range of potentiallyilluminatinghigher educationliteratures suggests a fourthquestion: 4. for example. Barnett2000. However. Why does this diversityappearto vary so much between subjects? 3. centralunits for continuingeducation.. in their examinationof the impact of lifelong learning policies on concepts of knowledge and university organisation. (Gibbonset al..transdisciplinary contexts.. The emergence of Mode 2 . pp.

and. to be about a mixtureof post-war academic history. or EnvironmentalSciences. geographersshould be able to recognise each other across institutions. of Laws at King's College and UniversityCollege Londonharkback to the early history of the University of London (Twining 1990). in practice. some Departmentsof Management. thus. But there is still a question. does Glasgow University uniquely house a Departmentof Geography and Topographic Science? Why are King's College London and University College London alone in having departments of Laws ratherthan Law? Why do some higher education institutionshave Departmentsof Business. Clearly. one in Geographyand one in Science (which turnsout to be a mixtureof surveyingand cartoTopographic This graphy). the Departmentof Geographyand TopographicScience at Glasgow offers two separatefirst degrees. values and status.much of the variationcould be removed through a simple process of bringing together alternative. then. .qualifying and specialist unit titles. I would advance two related hypotheses in explanation. It has been arguedthat: Disciplinary boundariesare the result of history. entrepreneurial opportunityor of academic coalitions. 1994. through its name. there is much more diversity in the titles given to basic academic units in some subject areas than there is in others. After all. as Table 7 indicates. that the issue of diversity in basic academic unit titles a is second order matter. And the division between Business and Management answerhere.regardlessthat some work in basic academic units called Geography& EarthSciences or GeographicalSciences. at least from my initial inquiries of academics working in these areas. Why. The departments. As the groupingexercise demonstrated. 148) This statement suggests a number of possible reasons for the variation observedin unit titles. of course.though these answeringthe questionaboutthe diversityof basic academicunit titles.but similarones could be identifiedin otherfields. (Gibbons et al. It may be. it could be argued that what I have described is at least as much an appearanceof diversityas diversityitself. vested interest. for example. or rather a whole series of smallerquestions.406 MALCOLM TIGHT First.combination.some both of these. p.actually Faculties. financing. and some Departmentsof Business and Management?The examples I have given are all in the social sciences. Thus. these are reflectedin the examples I have just quoted. My second question is perhaps more interesting than the first. ratherthan simply Geography. the faculty with which I am most familiar. advertisingits distinct market position. or even Social Sciences. departmentis. indeed.

The analysis presented here has been cross-sectional rather than longitudinal. place a greater focus on particular vocational subjects. the databases do contain what may be viewed as more 'traditional'basic academic unit titles. such as Nigeria. On the other hand. such as law.alongsidemorecontemporary-sounding as Geographical& Environmental Sciences. for example. such as leisure.At least threeexplanationsmay be suggested: * Some systems. more recent and less well-established fields of study. such as Nigeria. educationliterature identified: * History. The longitudinalstudy. * Local culturaldifferences are apparent in. though the former remain most common. such as Geography. philosophy and chemistry. * Organization. alreadysuggested. A caveat has to be repeatedhere. of changes in basic academicunit titles would be helpful in exploringthese hypotheses. appearto have adopteda more standardised approachto the namingof theirbasic exhibit less variety in terms of basic academic unit titles.Thus. * Some systems. Geomaticsand Gerontology (see Table3).THE ORGANISATION OF ACADEMICKNOWLEDGE 407 requirefurtherexaminationand testing. might be expected to be less sure about theiridentity and position. so there is no direct evidence to compare with the literature. the other with the distinctionbetween disciplines and fields of study. it is clear that there are sufficient local factors at play to ensure that the organizationof academic knowledge varies to some extent between these countries. sport & tourism. and in the different emphases placed languagesand areastudies. including Australia and the United Kingdom. while others. Thereare many examplesin the databasesof bothdepartmental forms of organizationand of more inter-disciplinaryor transdisciplinaryschool or faculty arrangements. upon particular some observationsmay be maderelatingto the strandsof the higher Fourthly. the existence of Islamic departmentsin Nigeria. to the effect thatthe titles given to basic academicunits may not be an accuratereflec- .coupled with an in-depthstudy of institutional histories. However. however. One has to do with the lengthof time for which each subject has been established within the university system. and thus exhibit a greatervarietyof basic academicunit titles. titles such Geology andGerman. we might expect long-establisheddisciplines. Turningto the thirdquestion. communication& media and health sciences.have a greaterdevelopmentof social science and artssubjects (in other words.thoughthe highereducationsystems in both Australiaand Nigeria have had a close historical relation with that of the United Kingdom. the overall subject balances of these systems are different). which are at least suggestive of changingfashions.

or even subject area.there is not much evidence in the names given to basic academic units of changes in the forms of knowledge.but alongsideratherthanin impacton universitystructures as Mathematics. such as Business. I will offer two.much diversityis apparent naming of basic academicunits. however. More recently established fields of study. First. and Leisure. to some extent contradictory. The vocationalrole of the universityhas always.No basic academicunittitle. a limited impact on the naming of basic they have so far had relatively academicunits. law and medicine in all threesystems examined. but ratherthat This is say organization. * Knowledge Forms. There is not much direct evidence in the databasesthat the recentexpansionin studentnumbershas led to a decline in the prevaland a rise of more 'thematic'forms of ence of 'reductionist'departments that not to the latterdo not exist. Management. The databasesshow considerablevariationnotjust in forms but also in the areasof academicknowledge of institutional organization.Law andEconomics. though this may be more apparentthan real.of 'traditional' Second and disciplinaryorganizationin the university.comments in seems clear that of the higher educationcurriculum basic academicunits with a vocationalfocus are at least as prevalentwithin higher educationinstitutionsas the 'pure' disciplines. of course.studies within units would be needed to addressthis issue. Similarly. such of older departments place in the * Diversity. education.thatbetween liberaland vocationalforms of education(Pring 1993). only a few are to be found in the majorityof universities.408 MALCOLM TIGHT tion of how academic organizationswork: more in-depth.indeed. The dataanalysis revealsthe continuingstrength of many long-establisheddisciplines (see Tables4 and 6). Table6 clearly shows the dominanceof vocationalsubjects.and despite the continuingcalls by policy-makersto ensure the relevance to the world of work . is to be found in every university within any of the three systems analyzed. Thereis.observational and interview. * Typologies.such as includedwithinspecific universities. been strong.the analysis presentedhas providedevidence of the continuing strength. Sport & Tourismhave made a substantial andcurricula. and would appearto be more prevalentin newer fields of study than in longer establisheddisciplines (see Table7). Finally.plentifulevidence to illuminatea ratherolder form of this debate. * Disciplinary Cultures. forms of departmental .the variousbranchesof the level of the namingof basic academicunits.Communication & Media. and these vocationalunits . As the analysishas indicated. * Massification.

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