It is easy to associate change in higher education with rapidly shifting politics, demographics, economics, technologies and policies, and to overlook the personal and professional uncertainty for staff caused when the physical scenery itself changes. By way of contrast, this Leadership Insight - Changing Spaces – focuses on the effect of changes in physical space on people: on social relations, work practices and individuals’ identities. Staff and students have historical relationships with space, whether lecture theatres, labs or offices. They react in ways that seldom conform to the parameters of rational change planning; their realities are more complex, perhaps messier, and certainly more unpredictable. The term Changing Spaces is used here to denote the changing ways of being, operating, belonging, and communicating that accompany changing physical spaces.
This Leadership Insight is part of a series of short reads for senior leaders in universities and higher education colleges on leadership, governance and management. The series covers evidence reviews, research syntheses and briefings drawn from our own research publications and provides an occasional alternative forum for a range of voices from the sector to critique key issues and hot topics.
This Insight, Changing Spaces: The People Dimension, presents six provocations that will be of value to leaders and managers faced with curating physical change involving people, their work spaces and their teams and communities. The provocations are based on analyses and interpretations arising from a small empirical study. So, although not exhaustive or based on a large dataset, they do provide a practical resource that highlights evidence of activities that have worked well and not so well. They also point to some critical ways in which Changing Spaces could be done better, differently, less painfully, more efficiently and more effectively.