Universities in England will never be the same again. The reform that is taking place at the moment will see a business-like approach introduced to universities across the country where they can charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees and no doubt use the investment to radically transform the way they look, feel and operate.

Good news for the universities, who will now be able to attract some major talent (both in terms of teaching and studying) from across the globe. Newspaper reports have identified China as one potential massive pool of student talent that we can now dip into, and these will of course bolster the performance of our universities moving forward. What does this change mean for the hundreds of thousands of employees up and down England working in universities? The goal for universities, according to the many reports, is to grow immediately and the war for talent will be fierce. What’s the goal for the workforce? Has it changed?

What the deans and other heads of the universities know, is that the change will have an impact, and there is little doubt that investment will mean campuses will swell, along with student numbers. What these leaders don’t know, is how the employees are going to handle the change, or indeed, are handling the looming change this very minute.

Many of the traditional universities will have a traditional culture that has been running through the organisation for many years, and change is not something that can be introduced over night – though some think it can be.

This is a crucial point for the 360 degree appraisal tool, because it gives the leadership within an organisation a window into the behaviour of the business, indicating how staff are handling the change, and how effectively the change is being implemented. It’s crucial information.

Positive change should be just that, positive. But it can turn destructive very quickly if not handled correctly, and if universities do not understand how staff will react to the change, no matter how positive it might be on profits and success levels, it is likely that the time taken to implement new policies will lengthen considerably. 

Elva Ainsworth

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