Policy Incentives and Research Productivity in the Romanian Higher Education. An Institutional Approach

Lazăr Vlăsceanu and Marian-Gabriel Hâncean


Some recently introduced institutional arrangements in the Romanian higher education system aimed at increasing the quality of both research and teaching, while also providing incentives to Romanian universities for a better connection to the international stream of research and ideas. These arrangements have been set to drive the Romanian higher education system from a traditionally praised Humboldtian model, where research and teaching are harmoniously combined within each and every university, towards a model in which one might identify a differentiation based on the division of labour among universities, that is research-oriented universities versus teaching-oriented universities (Shin and Toutkoushian 2011). This key rationale of such a change addressed the need of universities to grow their specialized competences as to effectively and efficiently spend the rather scarce public resources, while relying on existing and prospective faculty.

We build on Schwarz and Teichler (2002) perspective that institutional framework determines, to a large extent, the theoretical and methodological standards that higher education research strives for or achieves. Moreover, as Mace (1995) showed, new funding mechanisms are expected to change the behaviour of academics, both in terms of teaching and research. Consequently, our view is that the quality of research productivity is affected not only by the funding levels, but also by the incentives conveyed by the institutional arrangements governing the higher education system. As argued by Estermann and Pruvot (2011), diversity in the funding structure is an important condition for universities to achieve financial sustainability.

While public funding is an important income source for Romanian universities, recently introduced incentives are expected to determine universities to seek out additional funding sources. However, we show that university income diversification and higher levels of funding are not the only drivers for higher quality in research. The introduction of performance criteria in the allocation of public funding should act as a driving force towards an increase in research productivity and its impact.

In the first section of this paper, we briefly analyze the legal arrangements recently provisioned within the Romanian higher education, from an institutional analysis perspective. We stress the most important changes brought forth from a manifold perspective: academic career, quality assurance and funding. In the second section, we shortly discuss the idea of scientific productivity, suggesting that citations and citation-based formulae (i.e. H-index and G-index) are acceptable tools for the measurement of research impact. Eventually, we report and discuss the findings produced after analyzing the scientific productivity of two classes of Romanian university departments (i.e. Sociology; Political Science and International Relations). We conclude by suggesting that an increase in the quality of research productivity is due to a combination of income diversification and funding growth, with institutional incentives that stress performance criteria.

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