Change is a good test for delegates

October 22, 2004

The Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, a Georgian mansion in its own parkland on the outskirts of Edinburgh, is noted for its leisure facilities.

But surprisingly for the 100 higher education staff closeted there for four days, leisure was not on the agenda.

"This is really challenging and we're working really hard," confided one.

"We got the chance to do Edinburgh yesterday evening but we were far too shattered."

These were the first delegates to attend the Change Academy, a new approach to strategic change in institutions, pioneered by the Higher Education Academy and Leadership Foundation.

The idea, adopted from the US, allows teams of staff to meet in what is in effect a retreat, so that they concentrate undisturbed on organisational change.

Expert "facilitators" from outside higher education encouraged the participants to "think creatively", focusing, for example, on when the institution was at its best rather than on problems.

The Change Academy is not prescriptive about what each institution should be tackling, or how it should be tackling things, and projects ranged from creating a staff training and development strategy to bringing a global slant to the curriculum.

A delegate from one of the 15 university and college teams attending the academy, which is held under Chatham House rules, said: "(In an institution) people nip out to email, or nip out to other meetings, or you get interrupted by the phone. Here, we've got time to sit and think. This is a learning environment."

Teams brought together delegates from a range of posts across each institution.

"We've got a real mixture, academics and administrators and support staff, and to get together in a college context would be quite hard.

"There would have been a great danger that some groups and constituencies would have been ignored." one team leader said.

Only two teams fielded student delegates, who found themselves in demand to provide a student perspective to the others.

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