Exploring Critical Factors in the University of the West of Scotland Merger Process

  • Gillian Thomson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


The Higher Education sector as a whole has come under increasing levels of public scrutiny over recent years, often critiqued in relation to sustainable funding strategies and levels of public funding. One response from Governments and HEIs is to consider institutional merger as a means of reducing the number of providers, whilst maintaining levels of access to and quality of higher education. This thesis seeks to review a merger case study – University of the West of Scotland (UWS) - created in 2007 following a merger of the ‘University of Paisley’ and ‘Bell College of Higher Education’ creating Scotland’s largest modern (post-1992) university with over 20,000 students and around 2,500 staff. Whilst many organisational mergers are referenced as failures (eg, Epstein 2005) or presented as cases whereby success cannot be reliably measured for around 10 years post-merger (eg, Mao et al 2009), in 2010 the UWS merger was lauded a success by the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council. This study seeks to ascertain what were the key factors in the merger process that resulted in this successful outcome. A literature review is provided, followed by a research methodology that includes document analysis, in-depth focussed interviews and focus groups. Document analysis is considered fundamental to gaining a thorough understanding of the vision, intended outcome of the merger and the strategic approach the institution took to deliver a successful merger. In-depth focussed interviews with senior staff of the University explore key themes identified from the literature review and resultant conceptual framework, this will be supplemented by focus groups with a number of academic and support staff to ensure representation of staff views cutting across the layers of the organisation. The qualitative data extracted via these methods inform the findings and conclusions of the study. This study is expected to be of particular interest to scholars, practitioners and policy makers in the higher education arena.
Date of Award30 Sept 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJeroen Huisman (Supervisor) & Zeynep Yalabik (Supervisor)

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