In our summer 2013 In Practice authors from a cross section of HEIs present a review of sustainable change.
UK higher education institutions have proved themselves capable of transformational change on shorter timescales than their reputation would typically indicate. We present four case studies of universities that undertook significant change within two to four years. Some of these changes were prompted by crises, particularly of finance, others involved reassessment and remodelling of the institution’s mission and identity.
Our rationale for the study is that the environment in which HEIs (we use the terms “HEI” and “university” interchangeably in this report) operate is becoming more volatile, with changes to funding and government policy driving changes to both income and stakeholder expectations. It is possible that the sector faces the greatest turbulence that it has experienced in recent decades, and university leaders perceive a need to become more flexible and adaptive to flourish or indeed survive in the future.
This project aimed to:
Our approach was to establish what the organisational research literature says about the characteristics of agile or adaptable organisations, focusing on well-documented examples from other industries and the higher education sector overseas (this can be read in more detail in the full report online). We then approached a number of institutions that had recently undertaken pervasive transformation exercises. Our question was: “Whatever happened here, why did it happen that way?”
We concluded that the organisational capabilities that allowed these institutions to be adaptive would be familiar in any discussion of change management and organisational agility. These are:
> Read the case studies
University of Bath
University College London
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