The application of a corporate cultural change model to an institution of higher education

Date of Completion

January 1998


Anthropology, Cultural|Education, Administration|Education, Educational Psychology




Organizations throughout the world are changing to remain competitive and efficient in turbulent environments. Higher education must also change to accomplish its traditional role of education with fewer resources while faced with increased demands from constituencies. Higher education has been flexible enough to endure environmental changes. However, this adaptation process has been slow and incremental in its approach, leaving higher education administrations unable to respond efficiently to environmental pressures and opportunities. ^ It is, therefore, important for organizations to adopt more flexible organizational cultures and structures that can respond creatively to environmental changes. Changing an organization's structure is difficult if that structure is based on an organizational history of success and an established culture. Higher education has such a history and an established culture. Edgar Schein developed a cultural change model in which the organization's structure can be modified through assessing and changing the organization's culture. Schein applied this model to corporate organizations. Is Schein's model useful to assess organizational culture, assess potential group behavior, and assess the methods by which a new leader directs cultural and organizational change in higher education? ^ This study employed qualitative methods including observation, participant action research, and clinical interviews with key informants, using Strauss' grounded theory to organize the data and Schein's model to assess these attributes of organizational culture for two top management committees in an institution of higher education. This study found Schein's model to be useful to assess these organizational attributes. Five of the subject committees' basic cultural assumptions were derived using this process, and were later confirmed as representative of the committees' cultures by the institution's President. However, it was found that Schein's model did not adequately account for political influences on organizational decision processes. This research added to the literature by assessing the efficacy of Schein's model for use in higher education. ^