Preparations for turbulence in the environment of the Dutch higher education system
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Dutch higher education institutions are facing a number of different challenges in the near future. After the rapid increase in student numbers since the Second World War, the number of Dutch students will decrease from the mid-2020s, due to the ageing Dutch population. Besides these demographical developments, international and technological developments make it easier for students to study abroad, or follow courses at a foreign higher education institution in a digitalised way. This will lead to more international competition for Dutch higher education institutions, which means they have to innovate to keep track of their competitors. However, the Dutch government has not made any big changes in its higher education policies during the last decades. Furthermore, higher education institutions only have limited possibilities to change their markets, services and revenues as they operate in rather fixed geographical markets and are subject to strict regulations. To analyse if and how Dutch higher education institutions can strategically anticipate to environmental changes in the future, the theory on the multi-level perspective and theories on strategy formation in public sector organisations are used. These theories are combined to give insight into the relation between slack resources, entrepreneurial orientation and environmental turbulence and the extent to which higher education institutions have adopted and implemented a prospective stance. To do this, three rounds of interviews are held. The first round of interviews is conducted with four experts in the field of Dutch higher education institutions for an assessment of the indicators used in the interviews with higher education institutions. The second round of interviews is conducted with seventeen higher education institutions, divided into six types: specialised higher professional education institutions, medium higher professional education institutions, large higher professional education institutions, specialised universities, technical universities and traditional universities. The last round of interviews is conducted with six faculty directors of already interviewed higher education institutions in order to control for differences between different managerial layers within the organisation. The results from these interviews show that specialised higher professional education institutions have adopted and implemented the most prospective stance and traditional universities have adopted and implemented the least prospective stance. Furthermore, results show that slack resources and an entrepreneurial orientation are only related to the implementation of a prospective stance, not the adoption of a prospective stance. Environmental turbulence is related to both the adoption and the implementation of a prospective stance.