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Article

University mergers in Russia from the students’ perspective: uncertainty and loss of identity

University mergers are a common practice in higher education systems around the world. Merger-related aspects such as the transformation of organizational and administrative structures, the impact on the internal funding allocation mechanisms, or changes in academic strategies and profiles, are well researched. However, the role of students in university mergers and their understanding of these processes are hardly investigated. The aim of this study was to identify how students are affected by merger processes. Through the conceptual framework, integrating university organizational identity theory and studies of the human side of mergers and acquisitions, this article encompasses six institutional cases in Russian higher education. These cases were selected to illustrate different scenarios of university mergers and accordingly to analyze the variety of student experience in changing universities. The project’s data included the results of document analysis, analysis of the merged universities’ representation in
the public space, interviews and focus-groups with university administrators and with students who studied during the process of university merger. It highlights such perceived effects of mergers as anxiety and perceived unfairness due to post-merger changes, activization of we-they opposition between the students of merged universities, loss or transformation of organizational identity, and clash of university cultures.