Strategic Sampling

Besides being limited to research in HEIs in three Member States, as explained in Chaps. 1 (Sect. 1.2) and 4 (Sect. 4.1), the sample had to be further condensed within the frame of an empirical qualitative study. Therefore, firstly, only public non-specialised universities, as the traditional publicly funded, research intensive HEIs,[1] are examined. In England where a binary system no longer exists post- 1992 universities[2] have not been considered in order to maintain comparability with the other two countries which retain binary systems. Within these limitations an attempt was made to include a wide spectrum of universities. At least three universities have been identified for each country one of which had to fall within each of three categories established according to placement in international rankings and age of the university.

The categories were:

  • 1. ‘ancient’: founded in the 16th century or earlier and usually ranked within the top 25 % in national comparison,
  • 2. ‘well-established’: founded before the First World War and usually ranked within the top 60 % in national comparison,

3. ‘new-coming’: founded in the second half of the 20th century and usually ranked below the top 60 % in national comparison, but present in the important rankings.

The Shanghai, Leiden, THE and QS rankings in the years 2008-2013 have been evaluated for the selection, as these are the most internationally recognised (though not uncriticised)[3] rankings.[4] The selection of universities also attempted to represent a geographical spread of institutions within the three countries. In Germany, the biggest of the three countries and the only federal system, two universities from category 1 could be included which also allowed a wider geographical spread and to represent more Lander.

Since there might be differences regarding funding situations between academic subjects, experts from different subjects were interviewed, if the structure of the relevant research office allowed. For this purpose, a variety of subjects needed to be identified from which to recruit the experts. This identification incorporated the in popular debate increasingly relevant distinction between applied and basic research[5] as well as the academic discourse which generally categorises disciplines in accordance with subject matter and methods. Thus a distinction is made between ‘formal sciences’ based on objective laws (e.g. mathematics, computer sciences), ‘humanities’ which employ methods of critical and speculative analysis (e.g. history, literature) and ‘empirical sciences’ based on empirical methods. The latter category is divided further into ‘natural sciences’ studying natural phenomena (e.g. biology, chemistry) and ‘social sciences’ focussing on human society and individuals (e.g. sociology, psychology). Sometimes further subcategories are made and for certain subjects the categorisation is controversial, especially between humanities and social sciences (law, for example, is mostly regarded as a humanity, while it is sometimes seen as a social science).[6] Humanities and social

Sample for the empirical study. The areas relevant for the research are shaded dark

Fig. 5.1 Sample for the empirical study. The areas relevant for the research are shaded dark

science have therefore been merged here leaving three categories: formal sciences, natural sciences and social sciences/humanities. At least one subject from each category representing, at the same time, two more and two less applied sciences have been identified. These subjects are computer science (a more applied formal science), law (a more applied science from the group of social science/humani- ties), philosophy (a less applied science from the same group) and physics (a less applied natural science).[7] Figure 5.1 graphically illustrates the sample for the empirical study.

  • [1] On the traditional mission of HEIs see Chap. 1 Sect. 1.3.1 above.
  • [2] See Chap. 4 Sect. “Public Research Organisations”.
  • [3] One of the criticisms is that they focus too much on research. However, this is an advantagefor the purposes of this study, which equally focuses on research. On criticism see CHERPA-Network 2010, p. 62 seq; Lange 2010, p. 324 seq. See also the contributions to Erkkila 2013.
  • [4] CHERPA-Network 2010, p. 6 seq; Lange 2010, p. 324. Note that these publications still referto the combined THE/QS ranking. Since 2010, however, THE and QS publish separate rankings(Baty P (2009) New data partner for World University Rankings. THE, 30 October 2009 Accessed 16 August 2016).
  • [5] Politicians frequently distinguish between applied and basic research. Former BIS Secretaryof State, Vince Cable, for example, stated that more applied subjects, especially in the categoryof STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), have a particular value for the nationalinterest and should thus enjoy differential funding based on excellence (Cable 2010). We havealso seen in the previous chapters that international organisations place emphasis on this distinction (see definition in OECD 2002). Finally, it has also begun to inform academic debates in thelast decades (Kuhn 1991, p. 146 seq).
  • [6] On the academic classification of sciences see Carnap 1991, p. 394 seq; Burschel et al. 2004,p. 194; Koller 2009, p. 179 seq.
  • [7] This is not to say that the chosen less applied sciences cannot sometimes also be applied andvice versa.
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