Rattling the "ivory cage" : exploring the implementation of 'Investors in People' in English higher education institutions

  • Lesly Huxley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The national 'Investors in People' (IiP) standard seeks to set a level of what it regards as good practice for aligning staff development and management with an organization's goals. This dissertation questions why some English universities adopt 'Investors'. Whilst many other education institutions have adopted the Standard since its launch in 1991, universities' adoption of 'Investors' has been patchy. Throughout the 1990s, the UK public sector has been urged by successive governments towards what is perceived as a new managerialism. As public service organizations, universities (which I have conceptualized in the dissertation as "ivory cages") have been subject to radical reforms that have in turn created new internal rationalities of purpose, work and performance in higher education institutions (HEIs) as they seek to manage externally-imposed changes. Sectoral reports have encouraged HEIs to adopt 'Investors in People' as part of wider change strategies, yet whole institution accreditation in England is largely limited to post-1992 universities, with departmental accreditations greater amongst service or para-professional departments. Three key questions underpin this dissertation: Why is 'Investors in People' adopted? How is the decision implemented? And to what extent (and under what conditions) is IiP institutionalized or embedded? These are considered primarily from a Sociological Institutionalist perspective, through Tolbert and Zucker's (1983) framework of the component processes of institutionalization. My own metaphors of ivory cage and theatre stage are used as structural and illustrative tools. PART I of this dissertation presents the rationales and contexts for the conceptual framework and methodology used. PART II focuses on the stages of institutionalization and on accounts of 'Investors in People' implementation from within the ivory cages. The final chapter returns to the research questions and argues that internal and external environments and the power, roles and perceptions of social actors are important factors in understanding change in higher education and, specifically, in decisions to adopt 'Investors in People'.
Date of Award2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusan Robertson (Supervisor)


  • Staff development

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