While one cannot but applaud “change initiatives” of the kind described by Steve Olivier, deputy vice-chancellor (academic) at Abertay University, it is inaccurate to view “most universities as monolithic, conservative, bureaucratic and resistant to change” because of ordinary academics who resist the enlightened vision of “change managers”: vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors (“How to manage rapid change”, Features, 1 October).
Universities throughout their history have proved to be very malleable institutions – they would have not survived to this day without change, hence the narrative of the immutable university is a historical fallacy. Equally inaccurate is the portrayal of ordinary members of staff as diehard stick-in-the-muds. While some transitions have been reluctantly accepted over the years, staff are willing to embrace change, provided that it stems from a widely shared set of values.
These are times of change in Scotland, where the proposed Scottish higher education governance bill is encountering fierce resistance from universities’ leadership despite several progressive aspects. Who would have thought that the status quo would be deemed preferable to a modern emphasis on transparency and accountability?