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Managing organisational culture and identity in a dual sector college

Arti Saraswat (Continuum, University of East London, London, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




This paper is drawn from a doctoral study that was funded as part of Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Leadership, Governance and Management project. The college referred to as City College in this paper, was an higher education (HE) College and was formally part of the HE Sector. The college was one of the institutions that was studied as part of the research that aimed to identify issues in managing across the interface of further education (FE) and HE. Multiple sources of evidence, such as, interviews with staff and managers, documents such as, institutional strategic plan, reports on quality assessment and monitoring, and other institutional data have informed the findings of this paper. The college had roots in FE and had gradually evolved to become an HE institution. The institutional background in FE had vitally shaped the perceptions of the institutional managers on combining FE and HE within an institutional framework. Two sets of beliefs had emerged at the college, one that related to retaining the FE ethos of the college and another that supported a progressive diffusion of aspects of HE culture within the college. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper presents a case study of an English dual sector college that delivered substantial levels of FE and HE.


The paper presents the challenges associated with managing the college’s culture and identity as it continued to consolidate its position as an HE institution while remaining optimistic that it was not “drifting away” from its FE roots. The teachers and managers at the college had prior experiences of FE and their approach to work was influenced by FE practices. College was described to be “non-academic” and arguments were made to facilitate more “university-like” practices and arrangements for HE lecturers to help develop research and scholarly activity at the college.

Practical implications

The paper also highlights issues and considerations related to enhancing internal progression of students from FE to HE, pressures for separate and distinctive buildings and spaces for HE to help raise student aspirations, and the perceptions of internal and external stakeholders that related to a “confused” institutional identity of the college. Whilst the college had aimed to maintain a strong presence in the FE markets, it had simultaneously “concealed” its FE identity in order to appeal more strongly to the HE students.


In presenting the analysis of evolution of the college from an FEC to an HEI, this paper will be of interest to institutions that are considering or aspiring to strengthen their positioning as HE providers without compromising on their identity as FE colleges.



Saraswat, A. (2015), "Managing organisational culture and identity in a dual sector college", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 32-41.



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