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Turning Around a University: Lessons from personal experience

  • 16 March 2023
  • By Professor Susan Lea
  • HEPI number Debate Paper 32

Changes to the UK higher education landscape since 2010 and a range of internal challenges had seen the University of Hull confront a position of considerable risk in around 2017. Yet the city of Hull and the wider region is precisely the sort of place that needs a resilient and purposeful university. The paper describes how both the academic performance and financial sustainability of the University of Hull were turned around.

Professor Lea sets out the leadership approach required to produce sustainable change in a complex organisation. Issues covered include how to communicate the unpalatable truth, how to lead with purpose to effect change, how to engage meaningfully with a university community and how to deliver a programme that realises the intended benefits.

Universities drive and deliver social change when they stay true to, or sometimes rediscover, their purpose. Financial and academic survival call for clear-headed analysis and tough decisions, but it is the values, vision and strategy of an institution and its leadership that provide the backbone of successful and sustainable change.

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