Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Change Management in the Higher Education Context: A Case of Student-Centred Learning Implementation

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Change Management in the Higher Education Context: A Case of Student-Centred Learning Implementation

Article excerpt


This paper is concerned with the process of change in the university context and examines it through an Indonesian case study. It starts with a review of literature on higher education as an organization, its characteristics, and change management in higher education institutions. The theoretical analysis followed by a case study of student-centred learning (SCL) implementation in the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), Indonesia. Based on what has been achieved, it has been concluded that the implementation of SCL in UGM is a qualified success and is a good example of change management in higher education context.

Keywords: change management; higher education; student-centred learning; SCL; teacher-centred learning

1. Introduction

Higher education institutions are under pressure to change. The pressure for higher education institutions to change comes from a number of interrelated factors: the movement to a mass educational system, a student profile that is changing to include mature students (lifelong learning), growing pressure from industry to produce graduates with both thinking and practical skills, forced competition between higher education institutions to recruit more students to secure survival, and the demand of high quality research (Elton, 1999, 2003; Findlow, 2012; Fremerey, 2006; Grant, 2003; Rebora & Turri, 2010).

Nevertheless, creating change in the context of organization is not an easy task, moreover in a complex organizational setting like a higher education institution (Fremerey, 2006; Grant, 2003; Guskin, 1996). Higher education institutions are known to have unique characteristics which distinguish them from other organizations. Baldridge (1983), in his paper entitled Organizational Characteristics of Colleges and Universities, identified the characteristics: goal ambiguity, highly contested goals, client-serving institutions, problematic technologies, high professionalism, fragmented professional staff, and environmentally vulnerable.

Apart from these specific characteristics, researchers have classified higher education institutions as organized anarchies (e.g., Baldridge, 1983; Baldridge, Curtis, Ecker, & Riley, 1982; Giesecke, 1991) and loosely coupled organizations (e.g., Glassman, 1973; Weick, 1976).

Cohen, March and Olsen (1972) describe organized anarchies as organizations which are characterized by problematic preferences, unclear technology, and fluid participation. Giesecke (1991) highlights further that higher education institutions have problematic goals because the organization appears to operate on a variety of inconsistent and ill-defined preferences. Higher education institution members do not always understand organizational process and therefore run on a trial-and-error basis. This is why higher education institution seen as having unclear technology. In explaining the fluid participation, Giesecke (1991) stated that higher education institutions' staffs also vary among themselves in the amount of time and effort they devote to the organization.

Classical literature has categorized universities as loosely coupled organizations. Weick (1976) stated that the word "coupling" has more components than synonymous words such as connection, link, or interdependence. Loose coupling means that the connection between two elements are responsive but at the same time each element preserves its own identity and to some extent still has its physical or logical separateness (Weick, 1976). Weick (1976) also further emphasized: "Loose coupling also carries connotations of impermanence, dissolvability, and tacitness all of which are potentially crucial properties of the 'glue' that holds organizations together" (p. 3).

Even though researchers usually regard loose coupling as a negative matter, in practice there are potential functions that could be associated with loose coupling. Glassman (1973) stated that loose coupling lowers the probability that the organization will have to respond to each little change in the environment that happens. …

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