Change in Higher Education and its Impact on Academic Staff: The Case of the School of Business at University College Dublin.

  • Linda Dowling-Hetherington

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Change has become a much more prevalent feature of Higher Education (HE) with many trends apparent, including the focus on institutional management and leadership; changes in decision-making approaches; institutional re-structuring; and increased bureaucratisation. Yet, while the literature provides some understanding of how HE change is impacting upon institutions, the consequences of such change for the traditional values of academic life and work represents an under-researched aspect of HE in Ireland. To address this gap in understanding, a case study of the School of Business at University College Dublin (UCD), involving semi-structured interviews with academics and manager-academics, was undertaken. The aim of the research was to determine how, and to what extent, change in HE is impacting upon academic staff. The research explored the changing involvement of academics in decision-making and the impact of such change on traditional notions of collegiality; and examined the changes taking place in the role of the academic, including their academic freedom. The research provides evidence of a period of sustained institutional change at UCD and draws attention to the considerable tension surrounding the top-down manner in which change was implemented and the lack of involvement of academics throughout the change process. The research has contributed to our understanding of the changing HE landscape in Ireland and highlights the increasing tension between the traditional values of academics and the changing shape of university life. While the research evidence acknowledges that the level of academic freedom has somewhat contracted, it draws attention to the substantial loss of involvement of academics in School decision-making; the decline in collegiality; the increase in routine administrative duties and greater work intensification; and the increased emphasis on research productivity.
Date of Award1 Feb 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSteve Gough (Supervisor)


  • academic freedom
  • collegiality
  • change
  • role
  • decision-making
  • Higher Education

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