Crucial Institutional Innovations: Evolutionary Change in Higher Education


  • Leah MacVie


Erich Jantsch, higher education, disruptive forces, self-renewal, integrative planning, innovation.


In 1969, Erich Jantsch published his paper about the disruptive forces affecting higher education and society. He was serving as a research associate at MIT and studying the futures of MIT and the American University at the time. Jantsch (1969) said students were concerned about whether the college curriculum was relevant. Meanwhile, society was concerned about the degrading side effects of technology on the systems of human living, cities, and the natural environment. Lastly, Jantsch pointed to the rising concern about the lack of systems and futures thinking. He coined these concerns “disruptive forces” and believed that the university was well-positioned to assume a new leadership role in society in order to assist in transforming these concerns. Jantsch predicted (hoped for) five crucial institutional innovations in order to transform disruptions into “cohesive forces”. Jantsch passed away ten years after the publication of this document and didn’t have the opportunity to see if his ideas came to fruition. Using a mixed methods approach, this study explores the evolution of higher education institutions by posing questions that revolve around Jantsch’s five crucial innovations, including a new purpose for the university, socio-technological system engineering, altering the structure of the university, re-orienting the operational principles of the university, and a more active relationship between the new university and society. Five institutions highly referenced for their innovation will be invited to participate in this research. Jantsch’s “crucial innovations” frame this investigative study. The conceptual framework consists of the concepts of disruptive forces, the three functions of higher education, self-renewal, and integrative planning. This paper will present the preliminary findings to this study.

Keywords- Erich Jantsch, higher education, disruptive forces, self-renewal, integrative planning, innovation.