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Research Profile

Dr Gethin Williams 

Position:Honorary Research Fellows
School:Social Sciences

Research Interests

Main interests relate to the management of strategic change in higher education employing a contextualist perspective. Attention is focused on the management of change at three levels over time and the interactions between them: macro (Government), meso (Funding and other agencies) and micro (Higher Education Institutions). Particular interest is taken in the ways in which positive adaptations are made by HE institutions to external challenges and the contributions made by organisational structures and processes and institutional cultures (including leadership, management styles, modes of governance and power relations) to survival and competitive success.

Recently Completed Major Research Project

An extended study, funded in the initial stages by an ESRC grant, on the impact of changes in government policy on the development of higher education in Wales since 1976, was undertaken in two parts and completed in April 2009 with the publication on this website of Government Policy and the Development of Public Sector Higher Education in Wales: The WAB Years 1982-92.

The first part of the project was completed in November 2006 with the publication, also on this website, of University Management in an Era of Strategic Change: The Cardiff Experience 1976-98. The two publications have been prepared as companion volumes aimed at filling an important gap in our understanding of the development of higher education in Wales on both sides of the binary line during a period of major strategic change, largely driven by the Conservative Governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. A contextualist perspective is employed in both with attention for the university sector directed at the ‘Cardiff experience’ during the period 1976-98. The central dramatic event defining this experience was the financial crisis at University College Cardiff in 1986-87, a cause celebre which caused reverberations throughout the sector in Wales and the UK and contributed to the Government’s resolve to secure much stronger control over the funding and strategic development of universities. The immediate and long-term circumstances leading up to the crisis and its resolution by a enforced merger with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology are explored and analysed. The study also seeks to explain, using the same analytical framework, how rapid recovery and repositioning was achieved following the merger.

The focus of attention for the public sector is on the role played by the Wales Advisory Body for Local Government Higher Education (WAB) during the formative years 1982-92. This was a crucial period for the development of the sector and its major HE institutions, preparing the ground for their eventual incorporation in 1992, and making possible, following the removal of the binary line, the creation of HEFCW, which assumed responsibility for the funding of both the university and public sector institutions in 1993.