In general, we hate change – especially where this is seen as change for the sake of change. We build our lives around routines, reinforced by processes that enable things to happen in predictable ways. Change can be painful because we interrupt these routines and lose predictability. This should not mean that we never change, but it may mean that change is a process that needs to be managed. There is a large and growing literature on the management of change.
Undertaking a major reform of the curriculum is an example of a project for which change should be consciously managed. I would suggest that of most importance in this respect is to have a clear view of the destination. What will the curriculum look like at the end of the process, and what will be the advantages compared with the existing position? Be ready to highlight the benefits that will flow to staff – as well as to students. This is essential if staff are to be expected to devote time to redesigning their teaching alongside meeting REF targets. It helps if there are demonstrable benefits to be gained from reform that could not be tapped by tweaking current structures. It may also help to have a clear timeline over which the reforms will be completed so that life can return to a new normality.
A key decision may be whether to go for a short sharp shock of reform or to go for gradualism. Do we concentrate the misery and settle down, or insinuate the changes drip by drip so nobody notices?