Understanding academic agency in curriculum change in higher education

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This study explores the agency of academics and the structures that enable or impede agency in curriculum change. The study was conducted at a research university that experienced curriculum change in two waves: the first on a departmental level, and the second as a university-wide curriculum change. Interviews were conducted with the same academics after both waves. Thematic analysis generated six forms of agency. Progressive, oppositional, territorial, bridge-building, and accommodating agency appeared in both contexts. Powerless agency was identified in only the university-wide curriculum change. Individual, community, and institutional structures enabled or impeded agency. Instead of focusing on the micro or macro levels exclusively, this study highlights the interwovenness of structural-agentic processes, including the critical role of social cultures and relationships, and reveal how academic freedom is used in many ways as room for manoeuvring in curriculum changes.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Curriculum
  • Curriculum change
  • Agency
  • Structure
  • Higher education

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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