Large-scale innovation and change in UK higher education

Stephen Brown


This paper reflects on challenges universities face as they respond to change. It reviews current theories and models of change management, discusses why universities are particularly difficult environments in which to achieve large scale, lasting change and reports on a recent attempt by the UK JISC to enable a range of UK universities to employ technology to deliver such changes. Key lessons that emerged from these experiences are reviewed covering themes of pervasiveness, unofficial systems, project creep, opposition, pressure to deliver, personnel changes and technology issues. The paper argues that collaborative approaches to project management offer greater prospects of effective large-scale change in universities than either management-driven top-down or more champion-led bottom-up methods. It also argues that while some diminution of control over project outcomes is inherent in this approach, this is outweighed by potential benefits of lasting and widespread adoption of agreed changes.

Keywords: change management; top-down; bottom-up; distributive; leadership; innovation; collaboration; participation; participatory design; curriculum design; institutional practice; large scale; evolving culture; JISC; stakeholder

(Published: 6 September 2013)

Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 22316 -


changeManagement; topDown; bottomUp; distributive; leadership; innovation; collaboration; participation; participatoryDesign; curriculumDesign; institutionalPractice; largeScale; evolvingCulture; JISC; stakeholder;

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