Monday, 19 August 2013

Managing the tensions between maintaining academic standards and the commercial imperative in a UK private sector higher education institution

an article by Graham Simons Pitcher (Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, UK) published in Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management Volume 35 Issue 4 (August 2013)


In a changing landscape of higher education, universities have been moving towards a market-led approach to strategic management. This paper examines the case of a UK private sector education provider that gained degree-awarding powers following changes made in 2004 by the UK Government to the accreditation criteria for recognised degree-awarding bodies.

The management team, driven by the need to be seen as a legitimate organisation within the sector, made changes to the academic infrastructure to align more closely with those of the existing players in the market.

This isomorphic pressure to become similar for reasons of legitimacy created tensions between maintaining academic standards and business objectives.

The management of these tensions resulted in a reconciliation of the dual objectives – not a rationalisation or satisficing, but a realisation in action that the academic and business aims were in fact compatible rather than competing.

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