Is making change in academia challenging? If so, why? We’re glad you asked. We look at the effect of aspects of academic culture, as well as of change models.
Most change theories are developed in business settings
Academia functions differently from business in significant ways. On the whole, academia has more stakeholders, and in more complex relationships,than is typical in business.
For example, there is no clear customer in academia (students, faculty, staff, the general public, the state, industry, alumni, and others have each been realistically identified as a customer). Moreover, the concept of “customer” does not clearly represent participants in the collaborative processes of education and research.
Also, higher education does not create “products” that can easily be defined or controlled. Where business-based change theories rely on leveraging these kinds of elements, they must be adjusted for academia.
Change disrupts stability
Academic institutions are built to be very stable, and for a good reason. This stability enables individuals to reach out over the edge, into the unknown, through research and education. So, the very structure of academia resists change.
Change relies on strategic awareness of key elements
Much of the academic culture is taken for granted and/or invisible. For example, academia’s complex reporting structures create and maintain a very particular kind of culture. Also, academic culture includes a host of tacit assumptions and rules about who belongs and how to function in this environment.