Supporting complex institutional change management with scientific knowledge is the raison d'être of the Protée programme. Consequently, the Application section of this programme is not a secondary activity, but a major activity, closely interconnected with the research activity.

Beyond the research-action approach, which is used to directly irrigate change through research and whose role is to be at the centre of the Protée network’s research work, this application will involve three major types of activities, described in the following sections: developing a map of ARI institutions in Europe, transferring researchers’ knowledge to the people grappling with managing complex changes and a multi-site “cooperative workshop” system covering both the research activity and the application activity. The feasibility study carried out prior to issuing this call for expression of interest identified these activities as likely to respond to the expression of a need. Implementing these application activities will nevertheless depend on the researchers’ interest in them, the size of the network being formed and the use university management teams will make of these applications. 2015 and 2016 will be devoted to implementing and testing these activities with the researchers who accept to participate in this process.

Developing a map of ARI in Europe

One of the Protée application areas could involve producing a comparative representation of change trajectories in higher education organisations in Europe (especially in the form of a map). In the national contexts (characterised by a legal environment, a style of relationship between the central authority and the institutions, participants’ identities, etc.), specific local contexts (with their own internal balances of power between or within academic and executive lines of authority, and their diversity in terms of size, branches, etc.) and based on their specific trajectories, it will involve identifying, in a way the participants involved in managing the change can easily appropriate, how the decisive choices were made to reconfigure the institutions and how they were implemented.

These analyses will aim to help the organisations position themselves in the overall context given their specific characteristics (and therefore provide information for their change strategies) and enable them to identify similar organisations they might have an interest in exchanging with. They could also provide ideas to the institutions that are stakeholders in designing public policies.

Indeed, if there are lots of comparative data on higher education institutions taken from many sources (OECD, EUA, ETER, European projects and national systems), there is no systemic European-scale analysis of the trajectories and methods of change management, reporting on the diversity and complexity of the organisations concerned.

The Protée programme is, by nature, a resource confronted with this need. The multidisciplinary cross-tabulation of the research approaches it aims to produce, comparatively to the national and European plans and the different scales of the “systems” studied (micro, meso and macro), is the essential condition to identify the relevant information required to produce such representations/analyses.

Another benefit of Protée is the opportunity to participate in a project involving institutions capable of providing characterisation data for higher education institutions on a European scale (EUA and CPU) that can be used to enrich the knowledge database needed to develop such representations. The map could also be enriched and kept up-to-date by the institutions themselves through a “Protéepedia” hosted on the Protée website.

Transferring researchers’ knowledge to the people grappling with managing complex changes

This transfer would be carried out in different ways:

  • By producing and making available “integrated” representations of the change processes in the ARIs and the most appropriate change management methods in this context of complex differentiation (i.e.; representations that integrate both the results of the different scientific works carried out as part of Protée and the field experiences). These representations should be designed so they can be used directly by people in the field. The results of this work could take the form both of guides or reports as well as training seminars led either by people in the field or the consultants supporting the organisations in their change. The transfer mechanism would involve organising ad hoc workgroups that bring together researchers of different disciplines and practitioners who are responsible for implementing this integration.
  • Through an activity to popularise the scientific findings of the work, where appropriate. For example, this could involve extracting the tools or methods revealed in the publications in order to present them as spec sheets or instructions.
  • Through consulting activities.

Multi-site, theme-based cooperative workshops

This would involve workshops that bring together researchers/practitioners/participants from several sites around research issues in the Protée programme. Their objective would be both to provide insights through the scientific knowledge from practical exchanges and questioning between field participants and to provide a research field where practitioners would be stakeholders, along with researchers, in producing scientific knowledge.