Managing change through curriculum innovation (building a Network of Learning: beyond the boundary).
DProf thesis, Middlesex University.
It must be conceded that this 'project' represents work in progress as both an intellectual challenge and as an intervention in practice and provision within a higher education institution undergoing a fundamental transition. The term 'project' refers to the full range of activities and developments described and analysed in this project report. The project itself is on-going and not subject to academic /closure'. The term 'explication' when used in the report refers to the narrative and sequence of elements within the project. The explication itself attempts to reach a conclusion in phase 3 where 'outputs and products' are described. Where necessary the explication provides a self-conscious commentary on the project, especially where theoretical issues are involved. It tells a partial story only, but one which it is hoped yields valid lessons and understanding. The real life focus of the project is Westhill College of Higher Education which, in the period dealt with, was faced with major institutional challenges to its academic and financial viability due to its size and recent history. On joining the college in September 1997 both the new Principal and Deputy Principal had believed in the academic and financial viability of the institution as a continuing independent and autonomous entity. Such was the stated position, when both senior staff took up post, and in all fairness to past and present college members the college had never returned a deficit budget on the recurrent accounts. Furthermore, there were (and remain) long term resources invested by the college trustees on behalf of Westhill. However, within a period of three months of the new management team taking office it became clear that the long term prospects for a completely independent and diversified higher education college such as Westhill were pessimistic if it had to continue to rely on public funding bodies for practically all of its income whilst its
student numbers were capped at less than 1000 FTEs. By late 1997 the College's funding bodies (HEFCE and TTA) were unable and unwilling to guarantee growth in student numbers for Westhill. Furthermore, it was becoming clear that the quality of student life and experience was suffering in comparison to that available
to much larger neighbouring universities.
Faced with such prospects the senior management, the Governors and the Trustees of Westhill sought a radical option! (see Appendix 1 - document 1). A twin track of developmental change was proposed involving the generation of new approaches to learning and provision (embodied in the creation of a Centre for Lifelong
Learning) and, almost simultaneously, the creation of a strategic alliance. This alliance eventually turned out to be with the University of Birmingham, of which Westhill historically was an accredited and affiliated institution. The narrative of this project is, however, not primarily concerned with the alliance. Rather, the
alliance should be viewed as a 'framing' reality and continuing context for the development of learning opportunities which are the main menu detailed here. Curriculum driven institutional change, the development of sites of learning and the evolution of a network of learning are the nodal points of Westhill's
developing contribution to the alliance and are the main focus of work developed in this project. This arena of professional work, involving discourse, dialogue, negotiation, innovation and managing institutional change, involved above all what Winter and Maisch (1998) refer to as "authoritative involvement" in testing out new formulations of knowledge and new (for Westhill) methods and opportunities for learning. It is hoped that these concerns find expression in the explication that follows and for which the author carries the major institutional responsibility in the process analysed below.
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