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Title: Staff feelings about a merger in higher education : a longitudinal case study
Author: Arthur, Linet Stella
ISNI:       0000 0004 2720 9672
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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The trend towards mergers in higher education is likely to continue, as pressure grows to achieve financial savings alongside greater student choice in the higher education sector. This study examines a merger between a Church College and a post-1992 university in England, focusing on staff feelings. It was a longitudinal case-study, in which data was gathered from interviews and questionnaires, starting before the merger and continuing until seven years after it. Simple models are not able to capture the diversity of people's feelings about the merger. Although there was some evidence of a binary divide at the extremes, many expressed ambivalent feelings, identifying both the advantages and disadvantages of the merger, or recognising that the merger was successful while still being unhappy about it. In the confusion that followed the merger, the merged institution developed the characteristics of a complex system, in which there were multiple, interacting variables. People's feelings, particularly the need for a sense of efficacy, led them to behave like 'self-organising agents' in complexity theory. They achieved 'fitness of purpose' in relation to work outcomes and emotional needs by reducing their participation in organisation-wide activities, focusing on students and developing sub-cultures which supported their values and behaviours. During the post-merger chaos, minor issues became amplified. People's individual biographies, predispositions and outlook led them to interpret events in a way which reinforced their overall feelings about the merger. 'Emotional contagion' also played a role in spreading feelings from one person to another, adding to the effects of amplification. There was evidence that the unhelpful behaviours that developed as a result of people's feelings continued long after the merger. It proved difficult to shift from a directive to a more participatory leadership style and to re-engage staff in organisation-wide activities. People's underlying feelings appeared to be 'Iocked- in': there was little evidence of individuals' emotions becoming more positive over time, although attitudes across the department as a whole became more positive as dissenters left and new staff joined. The study identified a number of recommendations for those leading mergers. Recognising that it is difficult to attend to the 'human side' when operating at a strategic level, the recommendations include creating a communications post to ensure rapid two-way feedback between staff and managers, and making contingency plans for a prolonged period of chaos to ensure that key activities are maintained.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available