After periods of major political and economic change, it has been assumed that social institutions like higher education also change radically – and perhaps even fail. In contrast to this expectation, this study shows that such moments of intense disruption result not only in transformation but are additionally accompanied by significant levels of adaptation and resilience.
Based on the presenter’s recently completed doctoral study of the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, this presentation outlines some of the ways that higher education responds to major change at both system and organizational levels. It draws from a comparative case study of three ex-Soviet countries with new primary source data generated by interviews with experienced faculty members at the frontline of change. Understanding what it takes for higher education to survive a crisis makes an important contribution to comparative higher education studies and to filling the gap in theory-driven explanations of system and organizational responses to major change.