Change at any cost

July 9, 2015

PA Consulting Group must have been delighted at having its recent report described without comment or alternative views (“V-cs wanting to lead from the front are frustrated by a lack of followers”, News, 18 June). In addition, one of the report’s co-authors, Mike Boxall, had a letter (“Relevance is paramount”) published in the same issue making the same points about perceived resistance to change and complacency in UK universities.

Regardless of the accuracy of its survey of vice-chancellors, PA Consulting has a clear interest in encouraging change in universities whatever its value. Can we imagine the group reporting anything that would suggest no need for change? Innovation may well be required, but we cannot trust those calling for it when they have such a big financial stake in its promotion. Consultants and others with a pro-innovation bias are inclined to create “burning platforms” for change to help to support their business. The article and letter are good examples of this standard consulting rhetoric. An alternative, or complementary, view would be to explore those many changes under way that are detrimental to UK higher education, or at least seek a more independent view.

Andrew Sturdy
Department of management
University of Bristol

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