Institutional Design Frontiers: Higher Education Summit Summary

Overview: The Institutional Design Frontiers: Higher Education Summit was the first major event of Arizona State University’s new Center for Organization Research and Design. The two-day event took place April 9-10, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona and included research presentations from leading institutional design, organizational theory, public policy, public management and higher education scholars from around the world as well as panel discussions from key leaders in higher education, many of whom operate at the frontiers of design. The summit was co-organized by Barry Bozeman and Derrick Anderson.

Theoretical background: Many classic sociological and economic perspectives hold that organizations evolve as components of natural systems. Accordingly, evolutionary paradigms are often adopted to explain organizational change over time. Through such evolutionary paradigms, organizations and social enterprises are therefore subjected to powerful and complex forces that determine their attributes and their trajectories of change but are themselves unassailable.

Through a competing paradigm, the concept of institutional design asserts that the interactions between markets, governments, and organizations are in no small part the product of human actions, which are indisputably informed by preferences, values and objectives. For better or worse, organizations and institutions can be thought of as artifacts of human enterprise and available for mindful manipulation for the maximization of values and preferences. Our normative assertion is that the capacity to manipulate the interactions between markets, governments and organizations and also the organizations themselves should be used to design a more socially relevant higher education system.

Institutional Design Challenges: A total of 22 papers were selected for presentation at the summit. Papers were organized according to seven interrelated design challenges:

    • Measuring Performance Meaningfully


    • Fostering Organizational Transformations


    • Ensuring the Success of Emergent    Models


    • Empowering Critical Human Capital


    • Shaping Change Amidst Rigid Institutions and Traditions


    • Managing Publicness and Public Value


    • Connecting Resources to Public Value Outcomes

Summit outcomes: In an effort to maximize the impact of the summit, paper presenters paired with graphic designers and writers to construct infographics and short op-ed style products that talk about their research. Paper presenters were also asked to video record a summary of their research for inclusion in a “design challenges” video. Infographics, op-eds and video products will be released with a strategic partner at a later date.

Public Administration Review: In response to our summit, Public Administration Review, one of two leading journals in the field of public affairs, has agreed to publish a symposium on the topic of publicness and university performance. The symposium will include a selection of high quality peer reviewed publications as well as “perspectives” pieces from practitioners and policy experts. Many of the articles will examine empirical differences between public, private and for-profit universities.

High-impact panel discussions: In an effort to draw additional attention to the research and also advance meaningful discourse, the summit closed on with a set of three panel discussions that included a number of expert perspectives. The panels discussed the challenges of measuring performance, the future of for-profit higher education and the inherent public nature of higher education. Panelists included:

Michael Crow, president, Arizona State University

Wade Dyke, president, Kaplan University

Barry Bozeman, professor, Arizona State University

John Murphy, co-founder, University of Phoenix

Geoffrey Cox, president, Alliant International University

Robert Shireman, former Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education

David Halperin, former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and for-profit higher ed expert

Christian Johansson, president, Laureate Partners

Robert Kelchen, Washington Monthly college ranking expert

Bridget Burns, executive director, University Innovation Alliance

Craig Abby, director, Center for Measuring University Performance