Transformation of University Management: Co-Evolving Collegial and Managerial Values
This thesis explores some of the processes involved in the transformation of a university as it moved from a conventional collegial style of decision-making towards a more corporate one. Much of the mainstream literature in higher education management tends to polarise these styles as ideological opposites and as either good or bad. The themes which arise in this work include the tension which exists between collegial and managerial values, co-evolution of these values through processes of interaction within the organisation and the modulation of these processes by changing power relations. For centuries, universities were administered by academics who reached senior positions following election by their colleagues and who behaved as ‘first among equals’. Ideally, the community of scholars made progress following decisions which were reached by consensus. While such processes were appropriate in times when stability, budgetary certainty and the absence of competition prevailed, their shortcomings became increasingly obvious in the past quarter-century when the external environment for universities became progressively more hostile and competitive. Universities responded to the new requirements for accountability, revenue generation and competitive positioning within a market system by reforming their approach to many aspects of the running of their organisations. I argue that in importing a way of thinking which is largely based on cybernetic control systems, inadequate account has been taken of the importance of human interaction in the generation of strategy. While mention is made in the mainstream higher education management literature of the importance of collegial processes in implementing strategy at the academic coalface, and regret is expressed for the ‘lost art of conversation’, there has been little previously written about the microscopic details of the daily interaction which constitute strategising in universities. My argument is based on a series of reflexive narratives which describe my experience of organisational change and on a study of relevant literature. In addition to mainstream literature on higher education management, I have drawn on the work of Stacey, Griffin and Shaw and their perspective of complex responsive processes of relating as a way of understanding how organisations change. I conclude that collegial and managerial values can only evolve through processes of interaction between participants in university life and that this interaction often will involve tension, anxiety and conflict. I further conclude that the conversations which constitute such interaction can be facilitated by those with the power to do so, to provide real opportunity for the emergence of novelty.