Encountering with a wise, truthful, inquisitive, innovative and responsible university whose honesty, truthfulness and avoidance of deception, fraud and inaccuracy are the common denominators of its academic activities, which are the same aspects of an academic identity influenced by the prevailing culture and leads the university to present a different and unique image of being a scientific institution. Many experts in the university domain consider the norm of scientific institutions and commitment to their internalization as part of the scientific knowledge and expect the university to provide a space for scholars and thinkers in order to train educated, ethical and perfect individual. However, this expectation from the university has now been disrupted. According to Pasandideh et al. (2015), the university culture in Iran is changing rapidly with a steep slope, a change that is not promising for scientific excellence, but in addition to damaging some of the academic and human components, it has also hindered the scientific development of the country. The emergence of this issue has not only seriously challenged the accomplishment of missions and goals of scientific institutions such as the university, but has also hampered the role of cultural identity as well as the expectation of the university to make an impact on the society. The interpretation of “cultural eclipse of university” by Farasetkhah (2016) is the most eloquent, accessible and at the same times the most meaningful concept to simply express the issue of university culture in Iran.
The paper tries to explore the inner experiences and perspectives of academics in order to respond to the main research question as how and why there is emerging cultural disorder in Iranian universities and research institutes.
This is a fundamental study in terms of its aim to search for more knowledge production and present a theory based on data. For that matter, with a qualitative approach it has used Grounded Theory. This method made it possible for the researchers to examine and interpret the experiences of research participants and finally provide a theoretical but data-driven model. The participants were faculty members of universities who were selected through theoretical sampling and their experiences were collected through 17 semi-structured interviews and 4 group interviews. The data analysis, on what Corbin and Strauss (2015) had presented, is based on three concepts of context, paradigm, and conditional-consequential matrix. The credibility (trustworthy and believable) of findings (Corbin and Strauss, 2015) was conducted through simultaneous control of participants, exchange of views with colleagues, diversification of participants and deep engagement in the field.
Findings are based on three-leveles coding (open, axial and selective) including 1900 codes, 458 concepts, 101 subcategories and 32 main categories. Among the studied categories, "non-adherence to academic norms" was a central phenomenon, selection and the final model were based on causal and contextual factors at two "micro and macro" levels, academic action and interaction included "resistance", "silence" and "abuse" whereas the consequences included "individual", "organizational" and "national" ones.
Figure 1: View of final research model
The relationship between context, action and interaction and consequences, on the one hand, and the two-way connection between conditions and consequences due to the power of consequences in changing and modifying the action of actors, on the other hand, strengthen and reproduce the central phenomenon i.e. “non-adherence to academic norms”. Therefore, based on the results, assuming that academics do not have much power to change the external space to improve the university situation and assuming that some reasons and conditions are unchangeable and others are beyond the control of the university, help to improve and develop an academic culture from within and by the academics themselves, with emphasis on capabilities and opportunities available there, is one of the practical ways not only to organize the unpleasant cultural situation dominating the university but to prevent its reproduction and strengthening. Therefore, the final solution is the attention to individual responsibility and the role of the university itself. As long as Iranian universities remain silent in the face of academic misconduct and act in the same way as academics whether right or wrong, they will help undermine norms and encourage academics, especially the young ones, not to adhere them. Formal and informal requirements, unwritten rules and codes of ethics at the university can be the same tools that help strengthen academic values at the university and become behavioral guidelines for academics. Measures that not only do not cause the elimination of those who adhere to academic values, rather provide the basis for encouraging and supporting them, while preventing the space for reproduction and strengthening of non-adherence to academic norms.
Unlike other studies, which are limited only to the reasons and factors affecting the challenges, this article presents a conceptual theory through the relationship between the conditions, context, actions and reactions of different actors and their consequences.