The emphasis of this study is placed on enhancing understanding of how transformational leadership, organizational culture, and strategic change form an effectual model of influence on organizational effectiveness in higher education. The study used the descriptive analytical method and approached the study problem with a case study design. The primary research instrument comprised a semi-structured interview with 4 informants from the case study university who were purposefully selected based on their willingness and knowledgeability as knowledgeable and willing informants are assumed to provide accurate and rich data which contributes to explain and enhance understanding of study problem. The study clarified the relationship among three key factors of influence on organizational effectiveness in Palestinian higher education, namely, transformational leadership, organizational culture, and strategic change. It revealed learned lessons necessary to guide the practice of Palestinian universities toward more effectiveness and adaptiveness in the face of brutally demanding external environment.
Keywords— higher education; transformational leadership; organizational culture; strategic change; organizational effectiveness
The World Bank (2012) emphasized the rising significance of higher education in economic growth in a world intensely dominated by global knowledge economies and growing competitiveness. Higher education is a potential force to encourage economic growth by expanding employment and raising productivity through preparing highly skilled workforce for the various economic activities, increasing technological capacity, and leading research to drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity. Obviously, investing in higher education is a key process toward the wellbeing of individuals and nations.
However, within the context of Palestinian higher education, universities have become ineffective as a result of their incapability to adaptively respond to various critical environmental challenges. Palestinian universities are facing an enormously growing public demand on higher education. This increasing public hunger for higher education has placed further pressures on Palestinian universities and resulted in various severe chronic problems in terms of student access to higher education, institutional capacity to contain large numbers of students, rising demands for educational quality, the relevance of institutional outcomes to the labor market, and institutional governance (AlSubu’, 2009; Hashweh, Hashweh, ; Berryman, 2003). Consequently, Palestinian universities suffer from a serious dilemma of misalignment with their external environments as they grow more ineffective and incapable of adaptively addressing these environmental forces and changes.
Therefore, critical concerns have been raised about higher education effectiveness and how relevant it is to support economic and social growth in Palestine. The question of what makes an effective university naturally arises in the way of efforts to address these concerns. Therefore, identifying the key factors which potentially predict organizational effectiveness in Palestinian universities seems to be a central issue to revitalizing Palestinian higher education. In this regard, three critical factors have been anticipated to strongly predict organizational effectiveness in Palestinian universities, namely, transformational leadership, organizational culture, and strategic change.
As these factors fit into an effectual model of organizational effectiveness for Palestinian higher education, empirical investigation of their influence on organizational effectiveness was carried out in two Palestinian universities. Since the reliance on one method of data collection is insufficient by itself to fully address the research problem, a sequential mixed method design approach was employed where both quantitative and qualitative methods were utilized for data collection and analysis. The quantitative data and results obtained from the survey questionnaires could only provide a snapshot of the research problem whereas the qualitative data analysis obtained from the interview would complement, refine, and explain the quantitative results through deeply examining the participants’ views regarding the research problem (Ivankova, Creswell, & Stick, 2006).
Hence, the major contribution of this study is to provide complementary, in-depth explanation of the quantitative results with regard to the link that exists among transformational leadership, organizational culture, strategic change, and organizational effectiveness through learning first-hand from key informants from the two target Palestinian universities. This qualitative exploration will enhance our understanding of the nature and the empirical relationships among such key factors. Also, it may provide a significant contribution of performance implications and learned lessons with regard to how these crucial organizational factors interact to form an effectual model of organizational effectiveness for Palestinian universities.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Higher education has become an area of optimal interest to researchers, policy makers, and scholars due to its obvious link to the wellbeing of nations. It is envisioned as a powerful force to drive sustained and competitive economic development and social welfare and stability. Because the world in the 21st century is increasingly organized around global knowledge economies, where education and knowledge are treated as human capital that is utilized for high value social and economic return, higher education has become a growing industry as well as an area of intense public demand. Therefore, various governmental and institutional policies are ever more mandated to drive and support this view across the globe (Jenks, 2008). As a result, higher education is now at the core of nations’ awareness, and national strategies and policies are aimed at enhancing higher education systems as producers of highly qualified individuals as well as intellectual leaders who actively participate in economic activities.
Even though, as demands for enhanced role of higher education in building nations’ capacities grow, challenges and external pressures on higher education also increase in ways which may enormously undermine its effectiveness. From the international perspective, many pressures, challenges, and ‘winds of change’ were reported to exert a substantial influence on higher education (Stensaker & Norgard, 2001; Cummings et al., 2005; Hanna, 2003; Obenchain et al., 2002; & Eckel, Hill, and Green, 1998). That is, institutions of higher education face a double-sided pressure where they are pressurized to meet growing demands for national and international standardization coupled with powerful external challenges which have extreme consequences on their effectiveness. Such stressful challenges include keeping higher education affordable in an age characterized by a dramatic increase in public demand on higher education while controlling tight financial situation; containing large numbers of students coupled with growing demands for educational quality, effectiveness, and efficiency; meeting the demands of globalization and the resulting expulsion of