Sensemaking, Accreditation and Change in Higher Education: A Case Study of a Japanese Private University

  • Sarah Louisa Birchley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Higher Education (HE) institutions are constantly facing change. Accountability; the metaphor of student as consumer; a focus on management and leadership; and changing global economic conditions all affect the way institutions function. Recently, there has also been an increase in focus on accreditation procedures and organizational change. Although it can be difficult to measure the impact of quality assurance, this research focuses on exploring change and an accreditation procedure conducted by the Japan University Accreditation Association at a Japanese private university. Higher education institutions are social constructions and largely exist in the mind and as such, during change, some faculty members share values, rules of behaviour, and norms that become stabilized in institutional structures. This is due to the establishment of a common understanding. Conversely, there can be differences between groups in the institution. Thus, research needs to be conducted on how people make sense of change and their institution; the way information is processed and disseminated. By utilizing Ericson’s (2001) conceptual framework of four ideal types of meaning, and using Weick’s (2005) concept of sensemaking as a lens to examine the change, this research explores how faculty members make sense of change and accreditation and asks how far does this instance correspond to or otherwise illuminate Ericson’s (2001) conceptual framework for understanding change? This research contributes to our understanding of change, higher education institutions in Japan and accreditation, acknowledging the importance of effective management and leadership in HE institutions.
Date of Award29 Oct 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSteve Gough (Supervisor) & Michael Fertig (Supervisor)


  • higher education management
  • Japanese education
  • accreditation
  • sensemaking
  • case study

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