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Strategy and narrative in higher education

Holstein, Jeannie; Starkey, Ken; Wright, Mike

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Jeannie Holstein

Professor of Management and Organisational Learning

Mike Wright


© The Author(s) 2016. In this article, we apply the idea of narrative to strategy and to the development of strategy in the higher education context. We explore how strategy is formed as an intertextual narrative in a comparative study of higher education in the UK. Existing research suggests that competition between narratives, such as that in higher education, should be problematic in strategy terms. We show that this is not necessarily the case. Unlike in other settings where new strategy narratives tend to drive out previous narratives, in higher education it is the on-going interaction between historical and new narratives that gives the content of strategy its essential voice. We show how apparently competing narratives are accommodated though appeals to emotion and values. The maintenance of strategic direction requires hope and a synthesis of societal values that maintains access to the past, the future, and multiple narrators. This approach helps us understand how universities perform the complex task of adapting the strengths of the university’s past to the challenges of external policy developments in strategy formation.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 27, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 16, 2016
Publication Date Feb 1, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 2, 2016
Journal Strategic Organization
Print ISSN 1476-1270
Electronic ISSN 1741-315X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 1
Pages 61-91
Keywords Strategy process; Strategic change; Narrative, Intertextuality, Higher Education; Strategy
Public URL
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