Politics and power in training and learning: The rise and fall of the NHS University

Taylor, Scott; Bell, Emma; Grugulis, Irene; Storey, John and Taylor, Lee (2010). Politics and power in training and learning: The rise and fall of the NHS University. Management Learning, 41(1) pp. 87–99.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1350507609350838


This article examines the political processes surrounding the development and demise of an ambitious, yet short-lived, policy-based learning initiative, namely a university for the UK National Health Service. Using a Weberian framework of political action, we explore the impact of intra-organizational and macro-political dynamics on the initiative, highlighting the role of legitimate power and authority on learning within this organization. Through analysis of the practical and symbolic implications of the commitment to 'become a university', we identify sources of organizational resistance to the model of learning that the initiative promoted. Finally, we trace the traditional and rational-legal political processes whereby the initiative was dissolved by undermining the charismatic authority on which it was founded. We conclude by considering the wider implications of our analysis for understanding structures of authority in learning.

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