Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

J. Patrick Biddix

Committee Members

Trena M. Paulus, David J. Houston, Dorian L. McCoy


The purpose of this study was to describe the process of becoming a world-class university in the context of Western Europe. Aarhus University served as the case site, within the context of Denmark. One research question guided this study, “How does a higher education institution in Western Europe undergo the process to actualize its ambition to become a world-class university?” I remained in Denmark for approximately 18 days collecting data for this qualitative case study. Observations were completed in Aarhus and in Copenhagen, and documents and/or photographs were collected from university and government sources, In total 17 participants were interviewed including past and present high-level administrators, an academic administrator who also held a faculty position, and students at Aarhus University, as well as government officials serving in the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Higher Education.

Findings indicated visionary leadership, external consultants, and a pragmatic reorganization of the university propelled Aarhus University to create academic hubs with an interdisciplinary focus, emphasize a more global focus, express a desire to obtain greater external funding and engage in greater collaboration, and develop a core focus on what Aarhus University referred to as talent development. I refer to this notion similarly, as talent capacity-building to accent the notion that building a growing base of talent was central to national competitiveness strategies elsewhere in Denmark in addition to Aarhus University. Trust emerged as a cultural value in Denmark and an important consideration for the university and the government. Generous government state support and autonomy enhanced Aarhus University’s resources and decision-making capacity, yet a concern for quality assurance, economic competitiveness, and academic relevancy remained.

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