IT IS RARE to find an institution which is at once so uniform and so diverse; it is recognizable in all the guises which it takes, but no place is it identical with what is in any other. This unity and diversity constitute the final proof of the extent to which the university was the spontaneous product of mediaeval life; for it is only living things which can in this way, while fully retaining their identity, bend and adapt themselves to a whole variety of circumstances and environments” (Emile Durkhiem, The Evolution of Educational Thought).
How can we better understand organizational change among institutions that have captured the imagination of scholars for centuries? Many aspects of the change process remain elusive. The following section summarizes the main research areas that could help leaders, policy-makers, and institutions to allow higher education to thrive over the next century.
Perhaps one of the most central issues is to determine some of the gaps in our knowledge of change that have been hidden because change has mostly been studied at the overall institutional level, through leaders or in relation to leaders' needs, often without acknowledging the loosely coupled aspects of the system. As Burton Clark notes, change “is widely overlooked since (adaptation or accretion) is not announced in master plans or ministerial bulletins and is not introduced on a global scale” (1983a, p. 113). To what degree is change hidden within a loosely coupled system? Do we really know the amount or level of change occurring within institutions? Much of the existing literature characterizes institutions as unchanging. Could this represent a focus on overall institutional change that is less prevalent within higher education? How can