A critical-hermeneutical inquiry of institutional culture in higher education

Jacobs, Anthea Hydi Maxine (2012-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Includes bibliography

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation is a conceptual analysis of “institutional culture” in higher education, especially because the concept has become a buzzword in higher education discourse in South Africa. The aim is to develop an understanding of the concept, and more specifically, to explore how institutional culture is organised, constructed and articulated in the institutional documents of Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC). These analyses are preceded by an analysis of higher education policy documents. I employ critical hermeneutics as research methodology to construct constitutive meanings of “institutional culture”. Since it is difficult to work with a large set of constitutive meanings, I narrowed the list down to the four most frequently recurring meanings, namely: shared values and beliefs; language; symbols; and knowledge production. These constitutive meanings form the theoretical framework which is used to analyse institutional documents. My findings suggest that all the constitutive meanings of my theoretical framework are addressed in the institutional documents of both SU and UWC, which means that the institutional documents conform to my theoretical framework. SU has, in my opinion, an excellent and comprehensive base of well-prepared and compiled institutional documents. However, most of these documents seem to relate to quality and compliance to national policy requirements, with no significant actions or strategies to address the challenges related to transforming the University’s institutional culture. Even though SU has shown commendable strategic initiatives to transform its institutional culture, there has not been sufficient engagement with the challenges of transformation. Similarly, for UWC, it is my contention that even though UWC is committed to transformation and nurturing a culture of change in order to make meaning of and address the complex challenges of the world, there needs to be more rigorous engagement in shaping and managing strategic direction and planning to ensure an institutional culture to accommodate change. Even though the institutional documents analysed mostly conform to the constitutive meanings of the theoretical framework, what of concern is the lack of an adequate articulation of the concept “institutional culture”. If there is no articulation, it follows that there is an inadequate understanding of the concept. A deeper understanding is crucial if the important link between transformation and “institutional culture” is to be realised. I contend that there exists a disjunction between “institutional culture” and transformation policies. One of the reasons for this disjunction is an impoverished understanding among higher education policy practitioners of the concept “institutional culture”, which creates an impression of compliance with national policy requirements.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie verhandeling behels ’n konseptuele ontleding van “institusionele kultuur” in hoër onderwys, vernaamlik omdat die konsep ’n modewoord in die diskoers in hoër onderwys in Suid-Afrika geword het. Die doel was om begrip van die konsep te ontwikkel, en meer spesifiek om te ondersoek hoe institusionele kultuur in die institusionele dokumente van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch (US) en die Universiteit van die Wes-Kaap (UWK) georganiseer, saamgestel en geartikuleer word. Hierdie ondersoeke word voorafgegaan deur ‘n analise van hoër onderwys beleidsdokumente. Kritiese hermeneutiek is as navorsingsmetodologie gebruik om die konstitutiewe betekenisse van ‘institusionele kultuur’ te bepaal. Aangesien dit moeilik is om met ’n groot stel konstitutiewe betekenisse te werk, is die lys tot die vier mees herhalende betekenisse beperk, naamlik gedeelde waardes en oortuigings; taal; simbole; en die voortbring van kennis. Hierdie konstitutiewe betekenisse het die teoretiese raamwerk gevorm vir die ontleding van die institusionele dokumente. My bevindinge doen aan die hand dat al die konstitutiewe betekenisse van die teoretiese raamwerk in die institusionele dokumente van sowel die US as UWK aan bod kom, wat beteken dat die institusionele dokumente met die teoretiese raamwerk ooreenstem. Na my mening het die US ’n uitstekende en omvattende basis goed voorbereide en saamgestelde institusionele dokumente. Die meeste van hierdie dokumente blyk egter met gehalte en nakoming van nasionale beleidsvereistes verband te hou, met geen beduidende handelinge of strategieë om die uitdagings aan te pak wat met die transformasie van die US se institusionele kultuur verband hou nie. Alhoewel die US lofwaardige strategiese inisiatiewe aanwend om sy institusionele kultuur te transformeer, blyk daar nie ’n genoegsame verbintenis te wees om die uitdagings van transformasie die hoof gebied nie. Eweneens, wat UWK betref, is my argument dat alhoewel UWK verbind is tot transformasie en die kweek van ’n kultuur van verandering ten einde sin te maak van die komplekse veranderinge van die wêreld en sodanige veranderinge aan te pak, ’n meer nougesette verbintenis nodig is rakende die ontwikkeling en bestuur van strategiese leiding en beplanning ten einde ’n kultuur wat verandering tegemoet kom, te verseker. Alhoewel die institusionele dokumente wat ontleed is hoofsaaklik met die konstitutiewe betekenisse van die teoretiese raamwerk ooreenstem, is die gebrek aan voldoende artikulasie van die konsep “institusionele kultuur” rede tot kommer. Die gebrek aan artikulasie lei tot onvoldoende begrip van die konsep. ’n Grondiger begrip is noodsaaklik ten einde die belangrike skakel tussen transformasie en “institusionele kultuur” te verwesenlik. My gevolgtrekking is dat daar skeiding tussen” institusionele kultuur” en transformasiebeleide is. Een van die redes vir sogenaamde skeiding is gebrekkige begrip van die konsep “institusionele kultuur” onder hoër onderwys beleidsrolspelers, wat die idee skep van nakoming van nasionale beleidsvereistes.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/71702
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