The role of the HR department in organisational change in a British university

Charlotte Edgley-Pyshorn, Jeroen Huisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse the role of human resources (HR) in organisational change at higher education institutions (HEIs) and the perceptions of those within the organisation towards the HR department and their capability in leading a change initiative.

Design/methodology/approach – The objectives were achieved through a case study in which an HR department at a British university was undergoing a cultural change initiative, implemented by the HR department. Primary research was collected by analysing documents underlying the change project. Also 12 semi-structured interviews of 30-40 minutes were carried out; interviewees were chosen based on the need to have a cross-section including members of the change team and the pilot departments.

Findings – The HR departments at HEI may be faced with difficulties when attempting to implement change due to the relatively “new” nature of the function, meaning that they must first justify their position, worth and capability before attempting to gain the buy-in of academic departments to implement a culture change in their departments.

Research limitations/implications – More research could be carried out into a cross-section of British universities with HR-led change initiatives to broaden the data collection. Limitations in this research include the relatively small number of interviewees. A greater cross-section of interviewees would have been beneficial.

Originality/value – The originality of this paper is in the relatively un-discussed nature of the role of the HR department in change initiatives at HEI and how this could be improved, therefore this could be beneficial for HR departments in this sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-625
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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