Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Key Considerations in Organizing and Structuring University Research

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Key Considerations in Organizing and Structuring University Research

Article excerpt


Once concentrated in the more developed countries, university research capacity building has now become an increasingly important task in both developed and less developed countries (Nguyen, 2013a). In particular, for countries and institutions that are starting to build or trying to improve research capacity and performance, the know-how of university research management is very important for organizational research capacity building. Nonetheless, university research management has been regarded as an "uncharted territory" (Edgar & Geare, 2013), an area "largely unexplored" and a "modestly known" research topic (Bosch & Taylor, 2011). In an attempt to enrich this body of literature, this paper maps out the most essential elements in organizing and structuring university research.

Using Mintzberg's (1979) theory on the structuring of organization as a guide for specifying the main tasks in organizing and structuring research at universities, first of all this study describes in detail five of the more visible parameters and five less visible parameters in research organizational structure. We argue that in order to build a strong research organizational structure capacity, a university needs to pay attention to both the visible and invisible elements. Then, to "test reality" we explore how these ten proposed rules of organization are applied at the Group of Eight universities in Australia. The Group of Eight (Go8) is a coalition of leading Australian universities, comprehensive in general and professional education and distinguished by depth and breadth in research formally incorporated in 1999 [].

This study is helpful for research policy and management researchers and practitioners. It defines clearly generic elements in structuring and organizing research. In thinking about organizing and structuring research, people may simply equate it with a research organizational structure chart. This study shows that in fact apart from some more visible structuring activities, a university must consider carefully a number of intangible tasks which are extremely essential for sustainably developing its research capacity. By using the framework provided in this study as a tool, university research leaders and managers can assess the level of comprehensiveness of their current research organizational structure. From this evaluation, they can identify the gaps and develop relevant strategies for better managing research or for building relevant capacity for organizational research development.

The framework outlined below was developed during the course of an empirical study of research management and capacity building amongst leading research universities in Vietnam (see Nguyen 2013a, 2013b). This paper deals mainly with the theoretical conceptualisation of that framework and its applicability to the Group of Eight universities in Australia.


Structure seems to be at the root of many of the questions raised about organizations (Mintzberg, 1979). Organizational structure refers to:

the typically hierarchical arrangement of lines of authority, communications, rights and duties of an organization; it determines how the roles, power and responsibilities are assigned, controlled, and coordinated, and how information flows between the different levels of management. How an organization is structured depends on its objectives and strategy. (, para 1-2)

A university's three major tasks are teaching, research, and services (Boyer, 1990); the organizational structure of a university, therefore, is often based on how a university balances these three main functions, particularly teaching and research. If a university prioritizes teaching, it may only care about structuring its organization in a way that best promotes teaching and learning. However, if a university wants to promote research, it must consider building its organizational structure so as to enhance research activity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.