Cardiff Metropolitan University
Designing Change in a Higher Education Institution.pdf (7.42 MB)

Designing Change in a Higher Education Institution

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posted on 2022-10-07, 09:39 authored by Heather Madden
The silo effect in higher education institutions refers to the rigid reporting structures and decentralisation, which have become barriers to providing staff and students with essential information and services. Changing the processes and procedures that support the delivery of student services in higher education would result in improving the experience for everyone, for example, reducing the time spent transferring their calls or making them visit several campus buildings to resolve a query. Connecting cross-functional teams to define problems and design solutions, has proved challenging because of the time-restricted academic calendar and its cycles of demanding administrative processing.

This thesis joins a minimal but vibrant conversation on the use of Service Design tools and techniques, to improve the student and staff experience at a higher education institution in Cork, Ireland. Service Design can help to conquer the political and cultural divides in higher education institutions and reshape a traditional organisation, into an innovative, proactive, efficient and user-centred one. This research began in March 2013, using a practice-based action research approach to deliver organisational change.

Seven action research cycles, implemented over four years, assessed how a Design Thinking methodology could be used to analyse and improve services at each stage of the Student Lifecycle and embed this approach as a long-term sustainable change enabler. Each cycle of action improved some practice, implemented prototypes and adopted new ideas. The combination of knowledge generated from all cycle’s, presents important questions and delivers valuable lessons, on how to introduce Design Thinking into a higher education institution. Although Service Design can help organisations to design and implement new kinds of value across many sectors, the transition to using its tools and approaches can be difficult. Removing the initial barriers by reducing unfamiliar terminology and using an appropriate toolset, allows Service Design to be placed in the context of the organisation. Involvement of staff at all levels, from management to front-line, ensures that the service is understood in its entirety, and the support is there to xv implement true change, in a collaborative way. In the short term, quick-wins provide incentives to continue on the change journey, while long term evaluation provides feedback on improvements, highlighting those service elements that still require change.

Thesis completed in 2017.



  • School of Management

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD

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