EDEV_506 Week 6 Initial Post

The success of change in HE can be assessed through the lens of leadership theory. The task this week was to present a situation and analyse how educational leadership mediated its success (or failure).

A board level financial scandal seriously wounded the reputation of TBGU resulting in year-on-year falling enrolments. To address this decline, the president appointed a new dean of the Faculty of Policy Management (PM) to head the structural change process in the hope of reestablishing PM’s reputation. The strategy that undergirded this change was established behind the closed doors of the president and the dean. Any changes to the structure of TBGU need to be ratified by the Ministry of Education (MEXT): changes to PM would represent a future orientated vision that could proclaim the revival of TBGU to MEXT. The eventual result after two years of negotiation between the new dean and the PM professoriate was a profound change to the curriculum.

The problem was articulated as being one of student engagement and educational quality. Accordingly, the dean invited all professors to submit proposals that might address the problem. Briefly, the curriculum had required all first-year students to select one of six academic fields. This choice was considered to be problematic because new entrants typically lack a strong conception of their future needs and their present interests. This uncertainty leads to poor motivation and to frustration by teachers who cannot deliver targeted education. In conclusion, a new system of beginning streaming in the second year was established. The president and the dean demonstrated their joy at their success when they jointly announced the decision of MEXT to approve the change.

For change to be successful, an initiative needs support from top management and agreement from senior management (Donoghue, 2007). This support chain was promoted through inviting the professoriate into the transformation process, a move towards distributed leadership and joint ownership (Ives, McAlpine, & Gandell, 2009). However, note that the dean was appointed, not elected. This move was thoroughly unpopular amongst the professoriate; some resigned claiming the collegial values of the academy had been violated (Bergquist & Pawlak, 2008; Morrill, 2007). Those remaining publicly submitted to the notion that post-matriculation mechanisms could influence pre-entrance decisions and be responsible for the institution’s low reputation. Privately, they feared for their jobs. The change process, therefore, can be characterised not as one of transparency, accountability, responsibility and equity (Harvey & Kosman, 2014) but as one of coercive power manipulation (Raven, 1992). A cultural shift was imposed on the professoriate that involved a manipulation of standards and values that were alien to them (Harvey & Kosman, 2014), and was, furthermore, based in an attitude that could not be based in logic.

The president and dean had invested much time in the creation of the strategy to support their vision (Özdem, 2011), and the external façade of success shined with them temporarily. Inevitably however, fewer potential students took the entrance exams and matriculation rates continued to fall. If instead of being manipulative and borderline unethical, the president had involved the professoriate from the outset, even without knowing the extent of how the process may evolve, perhaps a more integrated and institutionally responsive strategy may have emerged. Tackling “unknown unknowns” (Longden & Yorke, 2009, p. 67) to develop an explicit knowledge from an institution’s tacit and implicit capabilities (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Polanyi, 1962) would have retained open and creative approaches to institutional communication (Donoghue, 2007) and may, perhaps, have allowed a moral and transformational learning success to have developed rather than a purely superficial unethical obligation that ultimately helped no one.


Bergquist, W. H., & Pawlak, K. (2008). Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Donoghue, S. (2007). Leadership and strategy. In S. Marshall (Ed.), Strategic leadership of change in higher education: What’s new? (pp. 42–53). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

Harvey, M., & Kosman, B. (2014). A model for higher education policy review: the case study of an assessment policy. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36(1), 88–98. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2013.861051

Ives, C., McAlpine, L., & Gandell, T. (2009). A Systematic Approach to Evaluating Teaching and Learning Initiatives in Post-secondary Education.Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 39(2), 45–76. Retrieved from http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/cjhe/article/view/485

Longden, B., & Yorke, M. (2009). Institutional research. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 13(3), 66–70. doi:10.1080/13603100903068957

Marshall, S. (2007). Leading and mangaging strategic change. In S. Marshall (Ed.), Leadership of Change in Higher Education: What’s new? (pp. 1–16). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

Morrill, R. L. (2007). Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC. and the American Council on Education.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Özdem, G. (2011). An analysis of the mission and vision statements on the strategic plans of higher education institutions. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 11(4), 1887–1894.

Polanyi, M. (1962). Personal knowledge: Towards a post-critical philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Raven, B. H. (1992). The bases of power: Origins and recent developments. A presentation in honor of John R. P. French on the occasion of his receiving the Kurt Lewin award. Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, 2–33. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED351648&site=eds-live&scope=site


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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