Strategic management and strategic planning at Ruskin College
The thesis explores strategic management and strategic planning at Ruskin College, an adult education college with a long history of contributing to lifelong learning and social inclusion. It has been written during a period of turbulence in the college - the collapse of a property strategy, the departure of a Principal, a failed inspection, the appointment of a new Principal and a successful re-inspection. Turbulence is a theme of the thesis and underpins some of the models for understanding strategy provided in the literature- The thesis reviews the literature, particularly that relating to further and higher education, on strategic thinking, strategic planning, strategic intent, organisational culture, mission and vision, governance, quality and inspection and how these relate to strategic management. These themes generate the research questions, which are explored using a triangulation of methods - documentary analysis, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and observations - and respondent triangulation, involving all levels of staff and governors. The research findings show the strategy development process operates within a strong cultural dimension, but is subject to strong external forces. Internal and external perspectives of the college's experience of strategic planning are largely negative. Staff and governors take a cultural perspective on strategy and recognise how concepts of strategic management, such as strategic thinking and strategic conversations, might link to vision and mission. The culture of the governing body and its' changing role in strategic management are identified as significant. The research shows that the relationship between quality and strategic management is unclear and varies according to the definitions of these concepts. It shows that the inspectorate has sought to influence strategic management but the inspection framework does not recognise culture. The conclusion proposes a way forward for strategic processes and approaches in the college as well as for future research on strategic leadership.