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Isomorphic tensions and anxiety in UK social science doctoral provision

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Policy Reviews in Higher Education
Number of pages22
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date1/06/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Scholars assert that, worldwide, doctoral provision is increasingly characterised by accelerated scales of production, competitive funding, centralised administration, and interdisciplinary, cohortbased training. The situation in the UK appears to mirror this picture but scholars have long noted that national settings mediate the forms that broader trends take. We therefore examined the case of the UK’s social science doctorates, which have seen both marked growth and a range of policy changes, to explore the potential extent of alignment with these trends. Invoking institutional isomorphism, a conceptual framework which asserts how convergence can be driven by different factors, we interviewed senior staff at a range of UK HEIs to examine the activities and underlying rationales behind their social science doctoral provision. We were able to establish that, while there is a degree of isomorphism around their social science doctorates, this is a complex and uneven situation because different kinds of HEIs are subject to a varying combination of simultaneous and often conflicting forces. Our analysis highlights not only how the relationship between national policies and higher education culture can be fraught, but also how organisations’ individual positioning and history has implications for how they are able to act in policy contexts.