RA-COVID-19 V5 - Recherche - Action Coronavirus disease 2019 - Vague 5

French universities facing COVID – COVID-IN-UNI

Submission summary

Research on organizational crisis management focuses almost exclusively on nuclear power plants, industrial sites at risk or the reactions of public administrations to disasters. But how do organizations behave which, like universities, are characterized by functional loose coupling and weak technologies? Do their internal decoupling, decentralization and permeability to the external environment make them more resilient in the face of an exogenous crisis like that of COVID-19? The quasi absence of research on crisis management at universities, in France and abroad, leaves these questions without answers. We therefore propose to shed new light by extending the results of research on the organizational management of crises to French universities in the face of COVID-19, and by focusing on the factors that favored or on the contrary hindered the preparation and management of this health crisis.

This action research will have two components. The first is to collect and use data on all universities since the start of the crisis and to draw conclusions about the dynamics underway. It is crucial to carry out this action today, while the crisis is still present and several contacts have already been made in order to ensure the feasibility of this collection. It will cover the year 2020 and will continue in the first half of 2021 if the working groups and actions on the management of the epidemic are to be maintained until then. The second part will be based on an interview survey conducted in January 2021 in four universities chosen from the data collected for the first part. We will carry out an in-depth, monographic and comparative study of the government of the crisis in four establishments, ensuring that they have not followed similar strategies in the face of COVID-19, are located in different regions that are more or less affected by the pandemic, present varied disciplinary compositions (presence of medical component or not), budgetary situations and development projects, etc.

It will then be a question of drawing practical lessons from this research for universities so that they are better prepared for future crises, and vice versa, to see to what extent the decisions, the modes of crisis management and communication that they have implemented can be replicated and transposed into other types of organizations.

Project coordinator

Madame Christine Musselin (Centre de sociologie des organisations)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IRG Institut de Recherche en Gestion - Université Paris-Est
CSO Centre de sociologie des organisations

Help of the ANR 103,032 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2020 - 12 Months

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