Jo Geraghty


A tale of two universities

Date added: 24th Jun 2015
Category: Organisational Culture Change

In a world in which the disruptors can come from anywhere those who are complacent face an uncertain future.

It’s June, the sun is out and students are rapidly ticking off the last of their exams before packing their books away and looking forward to the long hot summer. For some, it is also the time for university visitations; contrasting and comparing as they start to plan the next phase of their lives.

Let’s compare then two such universities, both offering variations on the same course but operating in entirely different ways. The first is well established and well renowned. Its reputation goes before it, enabling it to demand the highest grades from those students looking to cross its threshold. The other, although also long established does not have the same reputation as the first. It has traditionally attracted lower achievers, those who would not have had a chance to attend the first university.

So what level of experience do these two universities offer to prospective students? The first, is somewhat complacent. It knows it can select based on grades alone and that students may well choose it simply because of its reputation. Because of this, it tends to bask in past glories: citing the same few examples in talks to students and in departmental tours. Demonstrations are pitched well beneath the ability of prospective students and the overall impression is one of solid but unexciting competence.

The second university offers a very different experience. This is a university which a few years ago took the decision to shake itself up out of complacency. The talk is not of the past but rather looks to the future and the pathways which are open to students. This is a university with a strong upward trajectory and its students are offered the chance to be a part of something special. That it is striking a chord can be seen by the grade expectations which are rising year-on-year and with new facilities in the pipeline this trajectory is only set to continue. In contrast to the stolid otherworldliness of the first university, departmental staff here radiate energised enthusiasm.

Admittedly we are only comparing single departments in each university but the contrast is stark. One offers a tried and tested learning pathway, the other offers the chance to benefit from the opportunities afforded by the latest technology; one offers reputation, the other offers the future. It’s a lesson which we can easily take out into the wider business world. Basking in past glories may stand companies in good stead for a short while but sooner or later they will be swept aside by those who are seeking to create something new and exceptional.

In a world in which the disruptors can come from anywhere those who are complacent face an uncertain future. We may sometimes curse the pace of change but technology has also freed us from the shackles of unthinking repetition and given us the chance to do more, act more and be more. Those who rely on reputation are never going to be in a position to take advantage of the freedoms which we now have. To create the future we have to embrace the future. If we don’t, sooner or later someone else will.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *