5 Actions to Nurture a Culture of Change at Your Institution

Universities can often be resistant to change. Read on to find out why it’s important to encourage innovation at your institution and how this can be achieved.  

During the coronavirus crisis, staff, students, and stakeholders have quickly identified and addressed a range of immediate challenges to the educational experience.  

As expected in a crisis, most of their time and energy has been dedicated to managing the effects of the pandemic, with little bandwidth available for long-term planning or strategic decision making.  

According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies into the financial impact of the pandemic on the UK higher education sector, “long-run losses could come in anywhere between £3 billion and £19 billion.”  

On top of financial difficulties, universities are also having to manage outbreaks of the coronavirus on campus and the local area, with Forbes reporting, “19 of the 25 worst US coronavirus outbreaks are in college towns.”  

While dealing with immediate and significant issues is necessary in order to secure the success of your institution in this uncertain time, it’s also important to think beyond the pandemic, prioritizing a culture of innovative thinking and openness to new ideas.    

Institutions that are forward-thinking and willing to embrace new strategies are more likely to meet the evolving needs of students and stand out among their competition. 

For example, The Conversation reported that, interest in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) has spiked during the pandemic, with the learning platform Coursera seeing an increase in enrollment of 640% from the same period in the previous year.  

Institutions that are open to breaking from traditional learning pathways, such as by offering free online classes, are likely to benefit from evolving learning habits, both during and after the pandemic. 

Harvard University has over 140 classes publicly available online, such as ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence with Python’ and Introduction to Family Engagement in Education.  

With increased global interest in MOOCs, institutions who embrace this innovative approach to learning will likely experience several benefits, including increased brand awareness and a greater number of opportunities to demonstrate their research capabilities. 

Maintaining an openness to evolution at your institution is understandably difficult during a crisis, yet it’s not uncommon for institutions to also be resistant to change when they are functioning successfully. 

As explained by Karen Gross, former senior policy advisor for the US Department of Education, “change upsets us and threatens our sense of stability.”  

A step into the unknown can seem like an unnecessary risk when an institution is comfortable in its current state, regardless of the positive benefits that are predicted to arise from the proposed change.  

Here are five actionthat you can use to nurture a culture of change at your institution:  

  1. Conduct a stakeholder mapping exercise: Consider who will be directly affected or instrumental in the implementation of the proposed change, including students, alumni, and faculty, and establish a line of communication with them.   
  2. Conduct a thorough brand evaluation: Consider how the proposed change will be perceived. Again, clear communication with stakeholders can identify and prevent any issues ahead of time.  
  3. Inspire a culture of change: Create a team of volunteers who are passionate about your institution and who are willing to work towards a shared vision for its future.  
  4. Win hearts and minds: Certain stakeholders will be more resistant to change than others. Consider hiring external experts to help provide impartial assessments and deep insights to encourage acceptance.  
  5. Think long term: Retain interest and momentum for implementing new initiatives by providing progress updates on current plans and maintaining regular communication.  

For more in-depth advice and guidance on how you can inspire innovative thinking at your institution, please see our white paper: How to Encourage a Culture of Change at Your University. 


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