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The hothouse effect: a model for change in higher education

Barton Kunstler (Professor, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




To present a model of innovative change in higher education based on research into the factors behind the performance of highly creative historical communities.


The article diagnoses current pressures under which academia is laboring, explains the hothouse effect, and proposes solutions based on the hothouse effect model.


The article proposes restructuring of discipline‐based learning, developing new methods of strategic planning, adopting new assumptions about the social role of higher education, exploring modes of perception and cognition that are critical to education, and using digital technology to create learning communities and facilitate accelerated learning models. The model of organizational change emphasizes modest and numerous grass‐roots initiatives as the most efficient generator of broad cultural change.

Research limitations/implications

The aim is to stimulate pilot initiatives and broad dialog on the issues raised. The research points the way to further work in the dynamics of creativity, the nature of pedagogy, and the future role of the university.

Practical implications

Numerous methods are presented for strengthening the relationship of faculty and administration, utilizing technology to create learning communities and transform pedagogy, stimulating faculty collaboration, and planning for the future.


This paper provides many fresh and practical ideas useful at an individual, department, or institutional level. The goal is not a specific type of institution or mode of operation. Instead, it the model is flexible and adaptable to creative initiatives of any scope. Ultimately, this article can contribute to revitalizing the ongoing dialog about higher education's future.



Kunstler, B. (2005), "The hothouse effect: a model for change in higher education", On the Horizon, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 173-181.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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