Tribalism and Territoriality in the Development World

P Blackmore, J Chambers, L Huxley, B Thackwray

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Universities seek to increase their efficiency, effectiveness and well-being in a complex environment. A sophisticated understanding of academic work and learning and an ability to apply this to development activity is essential if universities are to be successful. Current trends make it highly appropriate to take stock and to consider whether new understandings are now necessary. The growing complexity of academic work has been widely noted. Some of the most significant issues have been the growth in transdisciplinary knowledge and the need for a review of the capabilities that are needed in a complex (Stacey & Griffin 2005) – or supercomplex - (Barnett, 2000) world, with multiple and complex communities of practice. Concern over internationalisation, global citizenship and sustainability inevitably raise questions about these issues in relation to staff as well as students. It may be that academic workers need, in effect, a set of broad capabilities that equate to a new academic literacy that spans all aspects of academic work. Contemporary trends in academic identity have clear implications for the ways in which support for academic work is conceptualised and organised, as a recent paper by one of the presenters proposes (Blackmore and Blackwell, 2006). A recently-completed research study, funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, drew upon eighteen detailed case studies of development provision at UK, Australian, US and South African institutions, together with a literature review, to identify a number of dimensions that permit the description of key differences. Two of the contributors were part of the project team. The study, which is probably unique in its breadth, confirmed immense variety in the structures and processes that institutions have in place to support development. One outcome of the study has been to highlight the various interlinked communities of practice that support development in universities. Some common labels include staff, educational, faculty and organisational development. Complementary to this, emergent outcomes from the HEFCE funded project on mapping the use and impact of organisational development tools will be explored. Three of the contributors are part of the project team. We take an explicit position on organisation for development. The benefits from organisational development can be described in terms of an organisation’s capacity to learn and change (Huxley and Thackwray, 2004). As such, organisational development can only effectively take place when the organisation, understands itself. In essence, organisational development in higher education is about helping the HEI to harness more of its collective talents – whether people are directly involved in teaching and research or seemingly far removed from it in catering, maintenance, security or, indeed, leadership and management – in order to succeed in its various joint endeavours: enhancing the quality of the student experience, supporting and directing the expansion and extension of the field of human knowledge and understanding, or establishing thriving enterprise ventures. (Thackwray, Chambers & Huxley, 2005) In the light of the ways in which academic work is changing we propose a conception of academic development that is: o Holistic - a greater understanding of academic work will be achieved if the range of academic activities and their relationships are considered together o Strategic - institutions will be helped to achieve their missions if they actively facilitate learning at individual, group and organisational levels o Scholarly - activity in this field should be solidly grounded in high quality research In facilitating the growth of expertise at all levels in institutions we recognise that such growth is a widely distributed phenomenon that occurs both formally and informally, deliberately and incidentally, and can be understood from a range of perspectives. Our paper draws on the recent literature on academic identity and role, on the funded staff development study and recent work on organisational development in higher education to: identify some key aspects of academic role; explore some of the drivers for and barriers to the evolution of approaches to development in higher education; and consider whether our existing development tribes and territories are appropriately constituted and positioned to meet the needs that have been identified. We explore the potential of these issues as a focus for applied research and propose a research agenda.
Translated title of the contributionTribalism and Territoriality in the Development World
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSociety for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) 2006
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Name and Venue of Event: Brighton Thistle Hotel
Conference Organiser: SRHE


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