n South African Journal of Higher Education - Transforming an institutional culture : an appreciative inquiry

Volume 24, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In 2008 the Ministerial Committee under the leadership of Crain Soudien in 2008 had, amongst other tasks, to investigate the promotion of social cohesion at higher education institutions. Numerous studies revealed that the institutional culture of a university or faculty plays a major role in transformation. In transforming the prevailing culture, management needs to constructively engage in such a process. This study aims to explore the views and feelings of a newly constituted academic faculty in terms of what they value and what they perceive as the ideal environment in which they will be able to flourish. Because an understanding of the ideal situation has to inform the transformation strategies, an appreciative inquiry was conducted among all the staff members of the new Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State. The data from the investigation was used to design a framework to be used by faculty management for cultivating a strong and equitable culture. It was evident that it is important to acknowledge present 'best practices' while building a new reality. The findings revealed that both the leaders and the staff have to take co-responsibility for such processes in order to constitute a faculty resembling excellence, equity and social cohesion. As the transformation of an institutional culture is a complex and sensitive task, this article contributes to the future of academic institutions in South Africa, which find themselves in the midst of a transforming higher education landscape.

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