Understanding Transactional Change in Higher Education Institutions: A Case Study

  • Helene Kamensky

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


As the scope and pace of changes currently being faced by higher education institutions (HEIs) continue to grow, issues of how to accelerate internal change processes in universities are taking centre stage. Nevertheless, there has been limited research on organizational change that takes the university as a unit of analysis (Fumasoli & Stensaker, 2013; Bastedo, 2012); hence, many aspects of organization change phenomena in universities remain understudied. The purpose of this thesis is to enhance an understanding of the transactional change dynamics in universities as organizations. The goal is to interpret and to explain how transactional change – an incremental, evolutionary change for continuous improvement largely concerned with day-to-day operations (transactions) of the organization (Burke, 2014) - emerges and evolves in a university setting. The thrust on examining transactional change within an HEI will be to look at the extent to which transactional dimensions of the Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change – organizational structure, policy frameworks, management practices, and climate - provide an explanation of how transactional change occurs in universities as organizations. While striving for a deeper understanding of the transactional change dynamics within an HEI, the study also seeks an explanation of how the antecedent factors influence transactional change processes throughout the institution.The research employs a qualitative, explanatory, single-case study methodology. The case has been examined through 42 interviews with senior leaders, administrative staff, faculty members, students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and external stakeholders. The results show that antecedent factors significantly affect transactional change processes within the HEI. Their influence is reinforced by the impact of the transactional dimensions, individually and in synergy, on the organizational climate. Together, structure, policy frameworks, management practices, and climate create an organizational environment that makes transactional change occur in the university setting. Overall, the study contributes to the academic literature in several important respects: (1) by deepening understanding of how the transactional dimensions foster change in HEIs, (2) by developing a systemic approach to the deconstruction of the transactional change phenomenon in HEIs, (3) by offering the 5-dimension model of transactional change in higher education, (4) by deepening the scholarly knowledge on how to forge links between planned and emergent change through multidimensional change agency model; (5) by explicating the effect of loosely coupled nature of universities on the implementation of incremental changes within an HEI.
Date of Award19 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJurgen Enders (Supervisor) & Robin Shields (Supervisor)

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