Managing Organisational Culture in a merged General Further Education College in England A Case Study

  • Ali Hadawi Cbe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There has been a significant level of merger activity in General Further Education Colleges (GFEC) in England in recent years. GFEC mergers are of critical importance to understand and to inform the academic literature, policy and leadership professional practice. The need to understand how mergers impact on the experiences of key personnel has human, financial and practical implications for GFEC. This case study considered, in detail, the impact of a merger in a GFEC in England on key internal stakeholders: teachers, curriculum managers and senior leaders. It explored, through interviews with the Principal and the Chair of Governors, nominal group technique (NGT) and focus groups with eleven teachers and eight managers and through participant observations, the impact of the merger experience on them. The study analysed and reported on the lived experiences of participants to enable a detailed assessment of the impact of merger on the alignment of organisational culture between colleges during merger.

This study explored the interrelatedness of the different strands that impact merger such as leadership action, merger management, communication, policy and pace, to develop a deep understanding of their impact on staff morale, emotional wellbeing and trust in leadership. The importance of this study emanated from the need to build a college community of practitioners who subscribe to one goal and strive towards achieving that goal. This was important as it builds resilience and enables organisations (colleges) to make sense of reality, empowering them to meet the needs of their localities, communities and businesses.

This study contributed to filling the knowledge gap by providing a detailed analysis of the different perspectives of internal stakeholders; teachers, curriculum managers and leaders, on the ways in which they have been affected by merger. It found that leadership decision making, communication, merger management and pace, have considerable impact on staff emotional wellbeing and trust in leadership. It found that to manage mergers successfully, more attention needed to be paid to the human side of merger in comparison to the transactional and performative side. The study found considerable interrelatedness between the human side of merger and how the merger was managed and conducted. This study also contributes to the body of literature with a specific nuance on FE policy influence on leadership professional practice, with respect to mergers. It argued that leadership decision making in mergers is a function of the neoliberal and performative policy environment, see 6.2. It argued that many GFEC merger failures can potentially be avoided if the policy environment was less performative and more values and human driven. This study posits that what is needed in FE is an alternative approach to policy-making based on a collegiate and distributed approach. An evidence-based policy rooted in professional practice rather than neoliberalism, is considerably more likely to achieve better outcomes for the FE sector. In this regard, this study contributes to the academic literature by providing an insider researcher perspective.

This study informs the GFEC leadership and management professional practice by arguing that mergers are complex and multifaceted therefore they need to be planned along more than one timeline, all of which need to be working in parallel and in tandem. The first timeline is the traditional timeline in which the transactional merger is enacted, the second is the plan to create a new organisational management structure, appoint to the new positions and align systems and processes, and the third is to plan people matters and the alignment of organisational culture. This way, leaders and other stakeholders start to view merger as a journey not an event and hence leads to better organisational wellbeing, organisational clarity and resilience.

The study argued that the current guidance is inadequate and needs to pay attention to people matters in the same way as it does for assets and legal matters. It needs to articulate the expectations for the human side and dedicate funding as is currently the case for other aspects of merger due diligence. The study further found that teachers and managers need to engage in regular reflective practice to aid understanding and the building of trust which in turn can help improve organisational culture and merger success.
Date of AwardOct 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHala Mansour (Supervisor) & Cristina Devecchi (Supervisor)


  • Further Education Mergers
  • FE College mergers
  • College Mergers
  • Human Side of Merger
  • College Merger Leadership

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