On 27th November 2020, we welcomed close to 200 senior leaders from across the HE sector to the SUMS Annual Conference. Themed ‘Opportunities to Transform the Sector’, the event featured a range of compelling sessions addressing some of the most pressing challenges and related opportunities facing HE professionals.  In their most recent briefing paper, SUMS Principal Consultant Fola Ikpehai and SUMS Associate Consultant Tina Yu share highlights from their dynamic panel discussion on leading disruptive change.

Disruptive change occurs when business models need to be fundamentally challenged, changed and re-invented due to external factors. HE change leads[1] and members of the conference’s Leading Disruptive Change Discussion Panel refer to a range of disruptive changes faced by the sector in the 21st century – for example, the massification of education, fee changes, and introduction of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Office for Students (OfS).  In 2020 the Higher Education sector, along with all sectors across the UK and beyond, experienced the disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. There will, no doubt, be further disruptive change in the future which the sector needs to be open to and prepare for.

Drawing on past experiences of disruption, as well as that brought about by Covid-19, panel members and delegates shared thoughts on lessons learned, do’s and don’ts, and critical success factors.

Within this paper, we consider leadership style and leadership qualities, culture and ways of working, and the unique characteristics of the HE sector that make leading through disruption challenging, yet fulfilling when executed successfully.

Almost all of the contents of this briefing paper are based on views and quotes from panel members and delegates who attended the Leading Disruptive Change Discussion Panel.

Many thanks to members of the panel, Associate Consultants Debbie England, Felicity Gasparro, Graeme Sloan, Nick Skelton; Lee Norris, Director of Strategic Programmes Office at the University of the West of England, Bristol; and all delegates who attended and contributed to the discussion, and by extension, this briefing paper.

Click here to read the full SUMS Briefing Paper: Leading Disruptive Change

[1] The SUMS Change Management Community of Practice

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