Corporate culture in an institution of higher education



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Authorities on culture in higher education agree that no single, universal culture exists. And as stated by Kuh culture is ever changing and evolving. Most recently, the literature on culture in higher education suggests the emergence of a new culture: the corporate culture.

Tierney has identified culture as a major factor in achieving and maintaining institutional effectiveness as it is a representation of the patterns, shared values, assumptions, and beliefs of the participants in an organization. Culture may serve purposes that are both instrumental and interpretive in nature. In other words, using culture as an instrumental tool allows for social interpretation of what the institution is, while used interpretively, culture can provide insight as to what the organization has. Succinctly stated, Tierney states that an organization’s culture is reflected in "what is done, how it is done, and who is involved in doing it. It concerns decisions, actions, and communication both on and instrumental and a symbolic level." Likewise, Smart, Kuh and Tierney state, "an institution’s culture is thought to mediate how an institution deals with external forces and internal pressures. Culture is formed over decades, as institutions ‘learn’ how to respond to challenges associated with their establishment, survival and growth.

The purpose of this study was to examine an apparently deliberate shift in the culture of a higher education institution, specifically, the attempt to incorporate a "corporate culture." A private, largely baccalaureate degree-granting institution is the sample/case for this particular study. The institution is one in which an individual from a corporate background was hired to fill an upper-level leadership/presidential position.

An analysis of institutional documents and limited interviews with administrators and faculty revealed that almost every aspect of the institution was affected in one way or another by this "corporate" president.