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Innovative management for organizational sustainability in higher education

Zenia Barnard (Centre for Information and Knowledge Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Derek Van der Merwe (Faculty of Law, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the innovative management strategies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) during volatile post-merger years, in its quest for a sustainable future. It illustrates how the institution went from a place of relative uncertainty and volatility to a place of progression and stability by adapting to its environment and challenging circumstances.


A holistic and inter-disciplinary approach is taken by the authors to demonstrate that organizational innovation and sustainability do not happen in isolation. The paper includes a literature review to contextualize the challenging environment in which the UJ was established and functions. A brief description of the strategic goals of the university is provided as a framework from within which the innovative management activities were launched. Data and information from the UJ’s stakeholder reports were used as measurement tools to determine the progress in reaching strategic targets.


Innovation in higher education reported on in this paper is a result of many planning sessions, policy and procedure formulations, brainstorming and benchmarking exercises, performance reviews, management interventions and statistical analyses. A set of necessary and sufficient conditions for innovation in sustainable development in higher education include decisive leadership on strategic direction; regular, flexible and inclusive planning; regular culture climate surveys; constant monitoring of progress; and strategic agility that is essential to promote innovation among the entire workforce.


The challenges, context and approaches provided in this paper serve as a frame of reference for other institutions of higher learning that face similar challenges in a dynamic, diverse and volatile environment.



Barnard, Z. and Van der Merwe, D. (2016), "Innovative management for organizational sustainability in higher education", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 208-227.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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