Understanding Institutional Isomorphism

Analysis and Discussion

This section aims at providing the necessary insights as extracted from the findings regarding the motivation behind the move of R2 universities to the R1 status. Most of the findings expressed in the coded themes would be aligned to the objectives of the research, which are not limited to the following research questions:

What was the motivation for public doctoral R2 universities to achieve increased research intensity, moving from R2 to R1 status?

What internal and external strategies do public doctoral R2 universities use to attain R1 status?

What are the institutional and public policy tradeoffs made when public doctoral universities move from R2 to R1 status?


The analytical framework

The study of motivational factors that make the R2 universities to move to the R1 status can further be explored with the help of a robust analytical framework. In this context, the institutional isomorphism has been selected for significant analysis of the key areas of the study. Seyfried et al. (2019) defined institutional isomorphism as a significant theoretical approach known for describing how the organizational systems would become more as well as more alike. Jaja et al. (2019) further captured the needful conceptualization of isomorphism. Isomorphism theory as constructed by DiMaggio and Powell aimed at the illumination of different forces that predisposes organizations towards the homogenous practices and forms. Therefore, the entire concept of the institutional isomorphism counts as an essential tool meant for understanding the ceremonies and the politics said to more prevalent across the modern organizational life. The description can be aligned to the sociological theory, which is known for explaining how the organizational systems tend to become more similar with time. This presents a situation where organizations are convinced to consider practices as well as procedures which are defined by the rationalized concepts attached to the institutionalized society and organizational work. According to Jaja et al. (2019), isomorphism stands out as a phenomenon which is driven by external forces such as competition and government legislation. For all the scholars panicking with the complex dynamics of the field think of seeking guidance from resources like Sociology Dissertation Help as they offer invaluable support to them.

The forces convince the organization to behave in a particular way, as well as by virtue of convergence, compliance organizational homogenization and social embeddedness. Based on a range of studies, isomorphism can appear in two types which include the competitive isomorphism and institutional isomorphism. It is worth noting that competitive isomorphism denotes competition among the organizations across the organizational field for the customers, economic fit and resources as well. On the other hand, the institutional isomorphism takes the fact that organizations would constantly seek legitimacy through conformation to the socially constructed environment for either power or legitimacy. Seyfried et al. (2019) further develops on the concept of isomorphism before developing the significant taxonomies. Based on the typology developed by DiMaggio and Powell, three interdependent forces can be recognized in relation to the institutional change. These include the mimetic, coercive and normative isomorphism. Based on the deeper concepts developed by Seyfried et al. (2019), it is evident that the early proponents attached to isomorphism would ignore the idea of competition across the operationalization. However, in the view of dynamics of isomorphism, coercive isomorphism considers the isomorphic change which takes place when the regulating laws have been quashed both functionally and morally. In addition, this can be made possible in the light of a potent external actor said to have the capacity of enforcing the new constitutional order.

Both Bondy (2009) and Beckert (2010) suggested that coercive isomorphism provides a reflection of the formal as well as informal pressures across the organization, which is compelled to work in line with the evident cultural expectations attached to the society. A range of studies noted that the moment legislations are developed in the organizational field; the laws would trigger pressure and expectations for the organizations to conform as far as legitimacy associated to the organization is scrutinized. Despite the unwelcoming impact of this isomorphic change, the relevant instances would superficially reflect on the significant demands of law and society without taking note of the dynamic operational practices. This implies that some of the organization would further consider, as well as embrace and implement the societal expectations and values into their operations or routine. According to Jaja et al. (2019), most of the organizations would take into consideration the coupled response, which is believed to be rewarding for the utility of the expected processes and structures. Such organizations would perceive their entities as law abiding. The move is equally linked to rewards like social support, stability, enhanced prestige, and professional acceptance, invulnerability to the questioning process, legitimacy and personnel attraction.

When considering this type of isomorphism, the organization is believed to be operating in a more dynamic environment and cannot adopt any of the rigid practices. Most of the practice would tilt towards the situational approaches as far as management would demand openness to change. The second type of isomorphism that would appear in the analysis is the normative isomorphism, which denotes the significant resemblance of the organizations, which occurs under notable circumstances not limited to professionalization of the practice or service. According to Pal and Ojha (2017), normative isomorphism encourages adoption of patterns and structures which are regarded as being superior and closely associated to professionalism. The isomorphic pattern is evident in compliance with the strict adherence as well as application of the professional standards and conventions by the significant members said to be working in a particular organization. Across most of the organizations that would be analyzed in this context, attention given to professionalism is said to facilitate the institutional convergence whereby the member organizations or members are granted such professions like the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Medical Association, and Society of Engineers, institute of management and the Bar Association or Law School. Any tasks would be conducted based on the oath of allegiance which is normally taken for the purposes of upholding the code of ethics. This practice would lead to sameness of the actions within the boundaries while appealing to the standards that are commonly reinforced via the socialization process across the professional networks as well as professional training, quarterly bulletins, monthly or quarterly presentation and the annual conferences among others. Normative isomorphism can be linked to two significant processes.

The first process points to the fact that members of the professions would acquire same trainings, which is something that socializes them in the course of viewing any relevant phenomenon almost in a similar perspective. The second process requires professional members to interact via the trade and professional associations, which are known for diffusing ideas across the segment. Based on the two processes, it can be asserted that, to a greater extent, professionalism plays one of the most focal roles in the course of imitating and adopting the prevailing institutional models known for producing excellent results. This bridges the greater sense of homogenization across the field as professionals bring in the wealth of experience and assumptions of how most of the tasks are handled while aligning to the set conventions. The isomorphic change would appear in the sameness of the procedures used by engineers or even professional doctors while attending to clients and patients before delivering or in the course of delivering services. The last type of isomorphism that would be considered in the analysis is the mimetic isomorphism, in which change is attached to the attempt by managers in responding towards the uncertainties. In some of the cases, this is normally done because most of the managers cannot depend on their sole ingenuity for guidance in case of any adversity.

Notably, mimetic isomorphism entails a mimic of the prevailing business or organizational models from which the new business model can easily be developed. The mimetic change is essentially regarded as a process in which the organization or the business emulates the significant qualities or characteristics of another established organization. The purpose of this change points at the need to model a new organization in the manner that it captures the practices, products and even structural configuration of other organizations. These characteristics are essentially regarded as being legitimate compared to the newly developed ones. This would count as part of the reason why most of the universities that aspire to shift status would have same structures for such courses like medicine, law and engineering with the intention of avoiding any uncertainties. The industrial leaders constitute the legitimate models on the basis that they have already attained the long standing goodwill, trusted and tested quality of the services, stable structural practices and design believed to have undergone a chain of tests and verification.

Based on this argument, it can be asserted that most of the modeled organizations would essentially serve as the most convenient source of the practices that can still be used by the borrowing organization. The most simplistic demonstration of this kind of isomorphic change is evident in the trade wars noted in Airtel, MTN, 9Mobile and Globacom. Among these plays in the Telecom industry, Globacom is believed to have introduced the 4G Sim Card. At the time, there was no other firm with the capacity of facilitating the technology. However, the rest of the players felt an overwhelming impact as well as legitimization of the Globacom’s customer base. This promoted most of the organizations to mimic Globacom as they sought to enhance their market positions while focusing on affordability. Apart from this example, it is worth noting that mimicking can also be destructive in some contexts. This is due to the fact that mimicking may not carry with it the necessary details regarding the dynamics. Mimicking can still be faced with a challenge of the inadequate skill set, budget, personnel and even the most basic resources needed in completing the process.

An analysis using the two cases

A preview of the Analysis

The research is tied to the fact that both the Clemson University and the University of North Texas have undergone the isomorphic change in attaining the R1 status. In the analysis and comparison of these two cases, the research is strongly interested in harmonizing the findings from the interviews with those from case studies before extracting the most evident motivating factors, internal and external strategies that would make any other university to move from R2 to R1 status. Briefly, the Clemson University is regarded as a publicly funded land grant institution found in the state of South Carolina. The university is characteristically a science as well as engineering oriented research university, which is something that has made it to be ranked second in the entire state after gaining the R1 status. Some of the colleges that define Clemson University include the college of Business, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, the college of Education, the college of science and the college of Engineering, Computing and the Applied Sciences. On the other hand, University of North Texas is essentially a publicly funded institutions found in Texas.

It is regarded as the fourth largest university across Texas and still falls in the group the first top 40 universities across the entire United States especially when it comes to the enrollment of students. The university is endeavored in provision of executive leadership, academic and student affair planning, educational mission, programs and policies as well as financial planning and analysis at the same time. The UNT avails 106 bachelor’s programs, 37 degree programs and 88 master’s programs. Significant components of UNT include the Toulouse Graduate School, the College of Education, the College of Engineering, the Honors College, the College of Health and Public Service, the College of information, the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, the College of Science and the College of Music among others. Most recent structures point at redefinition of science and engineering, which would see UNT have a true taste of Tier One Institution. History has it that the University of North Texas became among the three universities that attained the R1 status in the Metroplex area in the year 2015. With both UNT and Clemson Universities finding the pride in the R1 status, the critical concern is to establish what motivated them, the internal and external strategies and any policy requirements that need to be observed before attaining the R1 status.

The Motivating Factors

The research accounts for the motivational factors that would count in shifting a university from the R2 status to R1 status. The question remains as to whether there is a commonality in the factors universities use while fighting for the R1 status. The findings established the fact that Clemson University subscribes to attainment of excellence, opportunities for the new partnership, a growth in research as well as the graduate programs and the national and global impact. For University of North Texas, the most agreeable factors include the desire for prestige, the intra-state competition, the regional competition and the support aligned to research funding. Both findings from the literature and interviews agree on common motivational factors that a university would claim while moving from R2 state to R1 state.

The first motivational factor for any R2 university to shift to R1 status of the university includes the desire for excellence and prestige. It is evident that status of R1 University carries with it a sense of respect and recognition, which is something that made Clemson University for fight for this level. Based on the findings extracted from the interviews done at Clemson University and the case study, it is evident that the university has been consistent pursuit of excellence in both the undergraduate teaching programs, and the athletic sessions. It is asserted that Clemson University has a record of winning 2 NCAA Division I Football National Championship both in 2016 and the year 2018. In an interview, the university administrator explained the fact that Clemson has entrenched the drive towards attaining high quality in the vision of becoming among the top 20 public universities. For UNT, one of the respondents noted that the university is performing well for the level of the R1 University because it is important for the stakeholders to understand that the university is at par with the rest. The reputational credit is important and essentially motivates the university to sustain the dignity. From the context of literature, it can be asserted that the desire for prestige or attaining excellence is applicable to the R2 universities which would admire to attain the R1 status. This is due to the fact that the case applied to the scenario of UNT and the Clemson University. Part of literature pointed out that excellence is what most of the administrators would fight for because of the prestige that comes with it. The pride is essentially a marketing tool for most of the universities which have realized increase in the number of students as a result of good performance. According to Morphew (2009), changes in the institutional diversity have attracted the academic drift that aids prestige. Based on his findings, Morphew (2009) noted that the trend has been evident in some of the universities such as the Florida International University, North Dakota State and UNLV.

The second motivating factor that appears both in the findings from University of North Texas and the Clemson University is the state support and access to more funding resources. This is accompanied by the fact that states would provide more funds to universities with R1 status as far as research related studies are put into consideration. For Clemson, it is noted that the funds came from the Smart State as those for UNT came from the Texas State. One of the respondents noted that the national research university fund was more important in making the states to support the research active institutions. The research fund is important in the success of the related programs that would bolster the research program. For Clemson University, the R1 status is a convenient platform for establishing new partnerships as well as contracts which would boost the research growth thereby attracting diversified sources of funds. The administrators at the university are said to have worked on the SmartState program, which seems to have found success across the public-private partnership arrangements. Clemson is believed to have expanded on its partnership strategy while strengthening ties with the industries and the elected officials as far as research projects are put into consideration. The public-private partnership has widened the scope of accessing more funds, which is the conspicuous advantage attached to universities of R1 status.

One of the respondents from Clemson University noted that the researchers in most of the universities are part of the cost centers, which makes them a negotiable ground for attracting grants meant for sustaining development. The same argument has been floated by UNT administrators who pointed out that TRIP funding became a motivational tool for attaining the R1 status. The TRIP funds are regarded as matching funds which are based on the gift amounts. Most of the gifts are believed to be research enhancing activities, which have prompted the UNT administrators to create advanced operations across the research gift opportunities. The latter is an attractive tool for the TRIP fund as far as the idea of UNT becoming one of the emerging research universities is put into consideration. This is in agreement with the findings tapped from NSHE (2018) in the “The Rod to Carnegie R1 Classification”. The findings cited that one of the motivating factors is establishing the credible grounds with the funding agencies. Further details established by Douglass (2016) noted that most of the public universities are inclined to the tripartite mission, which intends to capture the socioeconomic mobility as well as economic engagement. This means that most of the public universities are strategically positioning themselves as economic hubs where research is purposed to help the society and therefore needs heavy funding.

The last common factor is the peer pressure. It can be established that universities would essentially compare self to other institutions in terms of the resources. These comparisons have helped most of the institutions to even aim higher for the purposes of attaining excellence. One of the respondents from the Clemson University noted that when considered the ACC school peers, then it is possible that one would feel out of place and this triggers the institute to work even harder in an attempt of having a status of a university. Before 2015, Clemson and Boston College became the only institutions in ACC that did not have the R1 status. The administrators at Clemson University noted that it was due to the peer pressure from other land grants institutions which made CU to become part of the research intense institutions. On the side of UNT, it is evident that the university was largely influenced by the peer universities such as University of Texas, South Methodist University and University of Texas-Dallas. NSHE (2018) also highlighted the fact that research universities would be more motivated to attain the R1 status as a result of the reputation among the peers within the same state. This position has also been supported by Lang and Damore (2019) who established the fact that UNLV intended to partner with the local commerce chamber while drawing comparison with Southern Nevada, which is also another economic peer region.

Other motivational factors are not common to every university. Some of these uncommon factors include the cultural shift, the intra-state competition, student profile and the institutional identity. First, the cultural change is commonly regarded as a force that would advance the faculty profile. The administrators at the Clemson University noted that a cultural shift made the university invest more in research activities. On the other hand, the intra-state and intra-regional competition was more evident in the University of North Texas as compared to the Clemson University. UNT finds its location at the heart of Metroplex area, which has such populated areas like Forth-Worth, Dallas and even Arlington. With competition introduced by the emerging universities, UNT found itself in the competitive dynamics as other universities show good performance in other areas.

Internal and External Strategies

In line with the motivational factors that prompted most of the R2 universities to ascent to the R1 status, the research again discovered the insights behind the applicable strategies used by the respective universities. The primary strategies that appear in both UNT and Clemson University constitute the aspect of collaboration. Both the universities show evidence of collaboration across different universities for the purposes of conducting the joint researches. Collaboration is essentially treated as the external strategy that is engaging most of the institutions to do more research, which supports them in doing or approaching things in newer ways. In the research conducted in South Carolina established the fact that there are three research universities which include the Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina – Columbia Campus. The three has established their way of developing reputation for the research excellence. They all amassed funds that enabled such university like Clemson to collaborate with the competitive institutions while developing joint proposals through facilitation of expertise in such areas like MUSC and USC. The strategy became more advantageous in the effort of seeking the R1 status. One of the administrators noted that scientists as well as engineers have diverse ways of reasoning and approaching things, which can form a significant synergy with other parties while investing in research.

With the help of collaborative efforts, most of the Clemson researchers now stand a chance of approaching the research fields in newer and different means which support efforts of achieving the R1 status. At UNT, the investments in data analytics have produced a common approach to the UNT units that would request data. Notably, DAIR established the insights of the program which were developed in the year 2016 while collaborating with most of the UNT administration in the course of developing the comprehensive approach towards predictive analytics and warehousing. In addition, the research has provided facts behind the acquisition of the Discovery Park which was acquired in the year 2004 by UNT. The research facility has enough space for combination of industry and university partnerships, administrative offices, education, research and training at the same time. The research space is said t be important in attracting the growing research and new hires. The Discovery Park facilitates the necessary utilities said to promote collaboration among the researchers. Studies fronted by Marginson (2016) showed that a Master Plan in California allowed most of the educational institutions to collaborate with the significant modern, as well as scientifically advanced society. The adoption of the Master Plan is an impetus to the university system which has progressively embraced educational policies and major innovations, which carry a positive impact on the economy. The same objectives have been highlighted in the 2016 Report known as “The Economic Benefits of The University of Nevada, Reno and its Research Enhancement Initiative”.

The second common external strategy that would be applicable to any other university in the course of attaining the R1 status includes the legislation. The legislative push has given room to most of the universities to strive for the R1 status. The University of North Texas is said to have been involved in the “Tier One Universities’ Bill” which is commonly known for supporting most of the universities to reach the R1 status with the help of state funding. Clemson would have the board engaged in the process of establishing links with elected officials said to support the research projects, and support a further access to more funding resources. For UNT, the legislative efforts prompted the university to realize the essence of having the innovation and the commercialization office in place. The legislative gap was realized when UNT noted that it was never tracking the past and the most recent activities associated to identification as well as licensing the intellectual property. In the year 2019, the research has established that the Division of Research and Innovation noted that the university had barely 7 disclosures of the intellectual property and inventions in the year 2019.

A further 44 disclosure marked an improvement with a significant increase in the royalty revenues as a result of the UNT technology licenses realized in the year 2019. At Clemson, more attention is given to ClemsonForward which has relatively tilted the legislative angle in the area of research. While there is lack of enough evidence to support this fact, Clemson Forward is a substantial appeal for big data science, cyberinfratstructure and advanced materials at the same time. A further use of legislations by universities in moving to the next status is a position that has been supported by a number of the scholars. First, Sorber (2018) recounted the fact that legislative efforts were more appropriate in the federal land grant. The policy agenda behind legislations is to engage even the legislators in supporting the initiatives that would make the institutions grow to the next status. The same idea is borrowed by Lang and Damore (2019) who highlighted the essence of leadership and legislations at UNLV.

Other strategies, believed to be transitional, covered in the findings include resource mobilization. In this context, it is evident that for the R2 University to move to the R1 status, it is supposed to have enough resources that would help it achieve and run the status. On the side of UNT, in an interview, the president is said to have made a commitment towards investing in the graduate programs across the college of science. At Clemson, the role of resource mobilization was channeled to the faculty members who would target the donors for funds. Resources go to an extent of hiring qualified people who would fit the R1 status. For Clemson University, the course of resource mobilization is comprehensively covered in the ClemsonForward and Clemson2020 in which there is a significant allocation of resources towards the research activities. Based on the update of the 2018 Report, a Board of Trustees attached to the Research and Economic Development Committee provided the insights on research division, as well as the R-initiative program. Scaling the internal research funding at Clemson University paved way for a strategic plan that offered the ground work meant for future investment. In an effort to mobilize resources, UNT also followed the same course in providing the infrastructural support, increase the professional staff and investment in the Discovery Park. The position of resource mobilization has been supported by Thelin (2011), the UNLV report and the Morrill Acts where resources have been highlighted as the most significant component for higher education system.

Strategic Planning can also be regarded as a transitional strategy due to its coverage of the internal and external components. Any university that would wish to move from R2 to R1 status needs to have a robust strategic plan. Clemson University claims to seek for the professional advice needed in the industry before attaining the R1 status. The same course has been pursued by UNT, which further involves people in the entire role of strategic planning. In an interview with an employee at UNT, it could be noted that chancellor one would run all the inputs and provide guidance to strategic thinking. In the year 2008, UNT is said to have launched the strategic plan that would cover from 2008-2013 under President G, Bataille. The plan covered robust strategic goals, which could not be limited to provision of excellence across the student-centered education, boost the institutional effectiveness, enhancing the reputation of institutions and community engagement, as well as increase research, creativity and scholarship. For Clemson University, strategic planning is evident in the ClemsonForward and Clemson2020 in which attention was given to increasing the annual production at a growth rate of 4%, boost the annual submission in terms of the research proposals by 80% and increase the annual funded research expenditures by around 50%. The idea of strategic planning is substantially supported by McCormick and Borden (2017) and Carnegie Commission on Higher Education (1973). The two sources cited the motivations which inspired University of Nevada – Las Vegas. Strategic plans also received more attention from Lang and Damore (2019) who noted the essence of sustainability in such areas like creativity, scholarship and research. The involvement of the quantitative metrics provides room for assessment of objectives, which would provide a clear picture of the progress.

The analysis further narrowed down to internal strategies that would offer support to universities as their advance their statuses. One of the robust internal strategies is the administrative – buy in. The latter confirmed most of the approvals and support. The support at UNT is said to essentially come from the highest levels which even involved the president who talked more about the aspirational goals, creating an environment of believability and fighting for a difference. The administrators at UNT were heavily involved in developing the strategic plan, enhance the expenditure and made proposals for contract processes and the software systems. The administration also played a fundamental role in developing the awards programs and the follow-on-sponsored support. The same case applies to Clemson University where the administration could agree with the strategic use of the available plans in the course of achieving the R1 status. The position of administrative support as an internal strategy has been supported by McCormick & Borden (2017) and CCIHE for most of the universities as well as colleges found in United States.

Cultural shift has subsequently been cited as another internal strategy which influences the mentality towards research work, while providing help towards attaining the top ranked status. The cultural shift is commonly realized by the students, the faculty members and even the administration. At Clemson, one of the interviewees noted the essence of celebrating research where there were award winners before picking the researcher of the year in every college. The act provided signs of a creative culture which never existed before when the university was dominantly known for arts. The administrators at Clemson University linked the cultural shift to research activities and the relevant spectrum while keeping its eyes on the undergraduate teaching mission. The university even felt an inner pressure that forced it to channel more resources towards research activities, addition of skills and talents among the faculty members. While UNT barely realized the cultural shift, the university focused more on the culture of scholarly activities while attracting the innovative impact both to the community and the students. This culture saw an increase in terms of the expenditures on HERD annual research, NRUF annual research, total numbers of the innovation licenses and the multi-institutional grants. The administrators at UNT equally boasted about the culture of data as well as analytics as one way of helping the university to attain the R1 status. The dominance of the culture of data made UNT believe that the university was making informed decisions and this must have prompted it to insist on developing the comprehensive institution wide data analysis. However, Scott (2006) barely insisted on the wide scope of culture of societies, policies and changing ideals across the United States. This implies that while cultural shift is important in achieving the R1 status, it is rarely afforded by most of the institutions. Only 10% of the 4000 institutions in the United States are believed to have attained the doctoral status as a result of cultural shift.

Additional internal strategies include tracking and evaluation. Notably, tracking and evaluation denotes the measures which are put in place to allow the institution understand its position in either retaining the same level, or moving to the next one. Both Clemson and UNT have robust systems aligned to the administration, which would do timely assessments in the course of assessing the state of the university. The common signal that would be extracted from the assessments includes changes in the number of students being enrolled, the infrastructural landscape and any other significant resource available. The Carnegie Classification system is commonly used by most of the universities as they try to do a self-assessment in gauging whether they can move to the next status or retain the current one. Further attention is given to the differential model in which work is divided for the purposes of paving way for the ones in research to have enough time to concentrate on their work. One of the respondents from the Clemson University stated that top researchers would be required to offload the course and remain productive in the field of research. This would allow the faculty members to be engaged and fully get involved in research while having an ample time of impacting a move from the R2 status to R1 status of the institution. The Discovery Park at the University of North Texas was set aside to facilitate researchers with significant resources that would help them run most of the research activities and research projects.

Policy Requirements and tradeoffs

The last objective of the research narrowed down to the institutional and public policy tradeoffs made when public doctoral universities change their status from R2 to R1. The literature rarely explored this area but the interviews and the case studies conducted at UNT and Clemson University provided insights regarding the tradeoffs. The first trade off that appear both at the Clemson University and UNT revolved around the outlined resources noted in the course of changing the faculty members that would open more opportunities for research. For Clemson, the university was faced by a tradeoff of sharing the resources especially among the faculty members. One of the responded noted that the idea of shared facilities was more convenient in cutting down the costs. The Clemson Bridge program is one platform that experienced this tradeoff, which was viewed as being advantageous in terms of the expanding the educational spectrum while making use of the available resources. One of the respondent from the University of North Texas stated that changes made in the faculty members was one move that enhanced the university’s focus on research. However, there are scanty details regarding specific departments that experienced this kind of an exchange at UNT. While this remains an administrative role, chances are that any decisions made towards the exchange must have been accompanied by comprehensive analysis of the association of the departments in question.

Another common tradeoff that appears both at UNT and Clemson University, based on the findings extracted from the interviews and literature, include a significant shift noted among the research programs. The shift could be noted across the institution, in the faculty and among students. In the faculty, evident changes are believed to have been in terms of compensation in which there was a pay increase for the faculty members. The purpose of the compensation was marching the practices with the rest of the R1 institutions as stipulated in the isomorphic change. In an interview, one of the respondents said that they had seen an increase in terms of their pay as one way of realigning with the rest of the R1 universities. One of the administrators at Clemson University stated that the university was hiring Assistant Professors as one way of realigning towards the R1 publics. This is due to a further creation of the research department that saw a move of professors and some of the administrators from one section to the next one. UNT went a notch higher by setting aside the Discovery Park which shifted the paradigm of the university while engaging in research. UNT also re-channeled some of the resources to the fresh departments aligned to research as one way of bolstering the mission of expanding research activities. Again, the hiring as well as tenure was both involved in the faculty shift in both the universities. In this case, more attention was given to the changes which could be tracked in the policies introduced for the purposes of promoting, hiring and establishing the tenure for the faculty members.

For both Clemson and UNT, the new recruits needed to understand the culture of the institution first. Secondly, the recruited staff needed to steer the university upwards and boost the faculty profile. With qualified staff members at Clemson, the university believed it was on the right course of achieving research Excellency. One of the respondent noted that bringing in faculty with an outstanding scholarly productivity and reputations is necessary in introducing and embracing dynamics that would make the institution to grow. The institutional shift could equally be marked with reputation, recognition and awards as established at UNT and Clemson University. It should be noted that award and recognition insists on the perception of quality as far as research is put into consideration. There also evident shifts among the students in terms of the numbers of the students in every university. One of the respondents from Clemson University confirmed that for the last seven years, the university has realized an increase in terms of the student applications with the number going up by 12000. Another observation made constitute the fact that the student profile could be tilted as a result of the tradeoffs. Another respondent asserted that the freshmen looked more brilliant with the average SAT settling at 1318. Again the average ACT’s are believed to have ticked up, which means that universities are paying more attention towards the quality of students that enroll with the university.

From the observations and findings tapped from the case studies and interviews, it is evident that almost each university would face a tradeoff in terms of the compensation, hiring and tenure, an institutional shift characterized by reputation, recognition and award, student shift in terms of the numbers and quality of talent and skills. However, most of the universities would have contrasting tradeoffs while chasing for the R1 status. For instance, UNT is believed to have relied on the culture of data and the necessary metrics in developing the cost benefit analysis, which has been significant in maintaining the R1 status. The same impact is felt in terms of the investment decisions that foster compliance to the Carnegie institution. While UNT invested in the culture of data, Clemson University focused on the organizational structure while trying to provide the necessary support towards research activities. One of the respondents supported the assertion by pointing the sense of departmentalization which has led to redoing the expectations. This has further prompted investments directed to programs and sites which have been helpful in funding most of the research activities.

Other differences between UNT and Clemson, which can still apply to any other university, include a shift in terms of the policies. UNT has unique policies and a subsequent shift was deemed necessary as far as the research perspective is put into consideration. One of the respondents cited the fact that previous policies, practices and procedures were rarely designed in favor of an active research culture. Therefore, fresh policies at UNT were necessary due to the new infrastructural landscape. A shift in the policy requirements for Clemson took the research direction. The university focused more on establishing free research centers outside the layout of the campus. This was necessary and painted a picture of research as being a new investment that targeted larger projects. To sum up, Clemson University encountered more tradeoffs compared to UNT. For Clemson, there were significant changes in terms of culture and mentality with shifts noted across the faculty, institution and students. In addition, Clemson had CECAS which established a clear criterion for both promotion and tenure which has three stratified levels.

Challenges in the pursuit of the R1 status

Apart from the motivations, strategies and tradeoffs, the research also highlighted some of the challenges, both common and unique, as universities pursue the R1 status. For Clemson and UNT, the research established common challenges, which would apply to any other university in pursuit of R1 status and the ones deemed unique to either university. The first challenge revolves around having limited resources or lack of resources as noted across the finances, infrastructures, faculty members as well as leadership. The University of North Texas cited the issue of faculty members where four departments only had four assistant professors while the competitor universities enjoyed a pool of 24 assistant professors in every discipline as noted by one of the respondents. UNT also cited lack of appropriate support when it comes to hiring the associate dean. Clemson also lacked sufficient resources with infrastructure cited as the key challenge. Both ClemsonForward and Clemson2020 lacked enough resources especially in the course of implementing strategic plans. Some of the resources that were high on demand include research labs, funds for the doctoral fellows and the lecturers as well as the adjunct faculty.

The second common challenge that would cut across the universities of level R2 is resistance. Both UNT and Clemson University had their own fears regarding the new faculties, which would bring new cultures and ideas that may contradict the prevailing ones. Clemson encountered resistance from the parents who had a feeling that changes in standards would bar most of the children from joining the university. Both the administrators and faculty became resistant to R1 status knowing that Clemson had a capacity of either taking a research focused program or the undergraduate teaching program. Despite facing challenges, universities can still have areas of strength which would help in countering the areas of weakness. One of such areas includes the significant focus on research growth. Both UNT and Clemson University pointed out that availability of resources would help them to attract excellent faculty members. With such advantage extracted from resources, the institutions could stand a chance of attaining the next status. Another advantageous area includes resource acquisition, which counts as a motivational factor. Achieving R1 status for both UNT and Clemson is important due to the fact that they would have access to state funds and more resource via grants. Such resources can be helpful in the course of maintaining the status. The excellent status noted in the two universities is a motivational factor in itself.


The research aimed at establishing the motivation of moving the R2 University to R1 status. The significant question is why R1 Universities would be accorded such attention. In the course of providing a background to the study, the research revisited the fact that only 10% of the 4000 institutions in the US could be classified as doctoral universities based on Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in the year 2018. A university would only attain doctoral status after it joins the significant ranks of the prestigious universities said to have active research enterprises. Chapter 1 of the research highlights the purpose of the study, which points at establishing an understanding of the driving force for the R2 institutions in increasing the research intensity, and embracing public policies in the course of pursuing the R1 status. The purpose could be linked to the research questions, which posited queries on motivational factors which drive R2 universities towards attaining the R1 status. Other queries pointed at the internal and external strategies used by R2 universities in attaining the R1 status, and the policy tradeoffs which can be made when doctoral universities shift to R1 status.

Early observations made by CCIHE asserted that in the year 2010, public research universities accounted for around 72% of the R1 universities based on the update of the year 2018. The research further focused on the literature review in which a number of studies have been considered. The first area of concern includes the historical context which would lead to growth of the research universities. In this case, attention was given to the Morrill Act, which formed part of the direct public policy introduced by the federal government. Every state is said to have received 30000 acres for developed of colleges and universities. Further focus was directed to the Extraordinary Time as linked to the practice of higher education. The second area of literature involved the evolution of purpose as well as the mission of the research universities. The coverage noted that there have been significant changes in terms of the purposes and missions linked to the doctoral universities. Other areas that received attention included the comprehensive Carnegie Classification Model and the necessary parameters the university needs to pay attention to. More findings extracted from secondary sources could further be attached to the motivating factors that would make a doctoral R2 University to attain the R1 status with the help of the story of Nevada.

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Chapter 3 concentrated on the methodology, which covers the methods of data collection, methodological approach and data analysis. Within a qualitative research, the processes focused on conducting a multi-site case study as one convenient way of understanding the impetus, tradeoffs and strategies used by R2 universities in attaining the R1 level. A further review of both external organizational and institutional documents, as well as conducting interviews on the external policy stakeholders and institutional representatives form a two-fold platform for extracting data. A further explanation building, pattern matching and cross-case analysis sounded more convenient in extracting significant patterns that would lead to a more reliable conclusion. The fourth chapter narrowed down to the Clemson University Case, which is regarded as one of the publicly funded land grant institution. The case study covered the state context and the historical overview of CU. More details touched on the motivation of CU in attaining the R1 status and some of the internal and external strategies used to move the university to the next level. The next section covered similar parameters aligned to the University of North Texas, denoted as UNT.

Chapter 7 of the study gave the analysis of the research findings while borrowing ideas and theories from the literature. On the basis of the comparative analysis of the findings, it could be established that most of the R2 Universities are motivated by the desire for prestige and excellence in attaining the R1 status. This could be noticed from UNT and Clemson University. Other motivational factors constitute access to funds and more resources, peer pressure and receiving state support. The universities would push the motivational factors with the help of the capacity to mobilize resources and strategic planning. Some of the unique motivating factors constituted the intra-state competitions, which applied mostly to UNT and Clemson. The findings also focused on the internal and external strategies used by R2 universities in moving to the next status. Some of the external measures used by UNT and Clemson included collaborations and provision of the legislative support. Significant internal strategies used by some of the institutions include the administrative buy-in, a cultural shift, tracking and evaluation as well as adoption of the differential model as seen in the course of departmentalization. However, in the course of pursuing the R1 status, universities are commonly encountered with challenges. Some of the challenges include resistance and limited resources among others.

The challenges and limitations

The research encountered challenges in the course of collecting data. Notably, some of the administrators would exaggerate details regarding the university, which shows the tendency of extracting wrong details. Time was another challenge where one interviewee would take a lot of time thereby limiting the number of respondents to be engaged. On the other hand, the research faced a number of limitations. The in-depth case study analysis would only attract a small sample. The literature is also limited when it comes to shifts noted in the research universities.

Thoughts and implications for future leaders

The research covers the vast area of the changes institutions would make while moving to the next level. The coverage carries with it deep-seated implications especially for the future leaders. The study implies that change is inevitable. Leaders would be forced to learn that positive changes would have dynamics and motivational factors behind them. Leaders should be quick enough in exploring the dynamics and establish means of handling them as far as Higher education is put into consideration. The study also points out that challenges may not be avoided as it is with the case of Clemson University and UNT.


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Bondy, K., Matten, D. and Moon, J., 2009. Isomorphism in the Practice of Corporate Social Responsibility: Evidence of an Institution and its Decline. University of Bath School of Management Working Paper Series, (10), pp.1-43.

Jaja, S.A., Gabriel, J.M.O. and Wobodo, C.C., 2019. Organizational isomorphism: The quest for survival. Noble International Journal of Business and Management Research, 3(5), pp.86-94.

Pal, A. and Ojha, A.K., 2017, June. Institutional Isomorphism due to the Influence of Information Systems and Its Strategic Position. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGMIS Conference on Computers and People Research (pp. 147-154).

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