Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Applying Game Theory to the Balance between Academic and Administrative Power in Universities

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Applying Game Theory to the Balance between Academic and Administrative Power in Universities

Article excerpt

Since 1978, reform has become the main thrust of social development in China. Society, consequently, pays the costs, resulting in a risky and often difficult transformation. As a social organization, a university is not exempt from the reform process. However, such reforms often produce unpleasant results, whereby unreasonable restrictions are placed upon the development of the university (Peng & Liu, 2006; Shi, 2006; Ye, 2011). In China's universities, administrative power exerts much more influence than does academic power, because of China's power-centralized political model and centralized administrative system. This means that university administrators have more power than academic staff do.

The coexistence of administrative power and academic power is the characteristic of higher education governance structure. The configuration of power decides the pattern of resource allocation. In the case of administrative power being stronger than academic power, administrative staff members have more authority over resources allocation when compared with academic staff. Game theory is the theory regarding conflict and cooperation between rational decision makers. It can be used to effectively analyze the interests behind the conflict. In this way, using game theory to analyze the academic and administrative powers of a university can assist in defining boundaries and forming a reasonable power structure. Using the classic prisoner's dilemma game model, in this study we analyzed the game relationships between administrative power and academic power, with the aim of finding a new theoretical explanation for the balance between academic power and administrative power.

The Basic Elements of the Game: Administrative Power and Academic Power

Power conflict is the most common phenomenon in human society and power is the most basic element of an organization (Clark, 1986). As a social organization, a university has the double characteristic of being an academic as well as a social organization. Administrative power and academic power, as two distinctive authorities in a university, have differing missions, responsibilities, scopes, contents, and operational mechanisms. Academic power is concerned with the implementation and guarantee of academic standards, protecting the rights and interests of academic staff, and assuring the development of discipline according to its logic. Administrative power is principally concerned with ensuring the implementation of national education policy and law, and assuring the efficiency of management. The win-win situation between academic and administrative authorities is the ultimate goal of the reform of the university internal management system.

Altbach, Gumport, and Berdahl (1998) pointed out that along with the expansion of university administrative power comes increasing control over the budget and planning of a university. This dual property of universities leads to the issues: (a) how to coordinate the inherent conflict, and (b) how to adjust and balance academic and administrative powers. Therefore, reaching an acceptable balance between the two powers is an institutional necessity for the resolution of a university's internal conflicts. In China, the independent consciousness of universities is weak. At present, the greatest concern is the Chinese government's control over the university decision-making process, creating serious bureaucratic problems in the management of universities (Hayhoe, 1996; Lin, 1993). The government maintains firm control of universities through financial allocation and the appointment of university officials, such as the president and secretary of the Party Committee. On behalf of the government, the president and secretary govern the university, control the allocation of various resources, and have a decisive voice in decision making, whereas teachers and students, the most significant members of a university, have fewer opportunities to speak up and let their thoughts be known. …

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