Running into a brick wall

It’s an interesting experience when a data collection process that seems logical when you design it turns out to be a complete failure when it hits the real world. This happened to me when I set out to enlist people to share their views about university management for my research.

The first attempt garnering a handful and the second attempt only a few more, I did hit one of those brick walls. What do I do now? I pondered some, wrote to my supervisors and organised a meeting. And there, the value of great supervisors became very clear to me.

I had made a few mistakes. Focusing on the trees instead of the forest, making the first survey question so wide open it scared people away, or at least I’m assuming that’s what it did, and falling prey to that cognitive bias that says if i think this is a good idea, everyone else will too. I’ve learned my lesson.

My thesis title until now was The Future of University Management with the focus clearly on management. I’d already shifted the focus away from the relationship between administrators and academics to focus on management, but I had designed my data collection around those two groups. It didn’t work.

Now the title is The Future University: Will it Need to be Managed? An important difference for me because it opens up the research to move away from those who manage and those who are managed to focus on the future university and whether managers will even have a job. And if they do, what does the job look like in 2040?

This shift also opens up the possibility of using online scenario tools as a way of getting a wide range of responses, at least in the initial phases. We shall see.

The brick wall has a hole in it now: a revision to the ethics application, a modified data collection process and a reframing of the literature review are the next on the list.

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