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Burrett, AJ 2002, 'Picking the pitch: a grounded theory study of the impact of equal opportunity officers on the culture of universities', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, lismore, NSW.

Copyright AJ Burrett 2002


Equal opportunity offices have been described as agencies of organisational change, and the term ‘cultural change’ has been used to describe aspects of equal opportunity work.

Universities are sites of organisational cultures where equal opportunity officers have worked in Australia for the past decade. In this time there have been significant changes to higher education, in terms of the size of the university sector in Australia, and also in terms of funding, governance and management. These changes in universities provided the context for questions about the roles of equal opportunity officers in universities, and how they may have changed.

This research investigated the practice of equal opportunity officers in universities by using a grounded theory approach to generate understandings about how this group of university staff may have impacted on university cultures. The study develops links between theories of culture and organisational change that was situated in the practices of equal opportunity officers.

The research identified a central conceptual category that was described as ‘picking the pitch’, as the main theme in the work of equal opportunity officers in identifying issues and gaining support for a cultural change agenda. All of the preliminary themes that were identified, and the interactions, the observations and the analysis of culture were prerequisites for ‘picking the pitch’.

The thesis uses the research for further reflection and integration of the goals of equal opportunity, and the means that were available to equal opportunity officers to achieve these goals. The interactions of power and influence, and some of the limitations on equal opportunity officers are discussed.

In the thesis the usefulness of the concept of culture to equal opportunity officers is examined, along with the underpinning theories about the mind of humanity that contributed to their approach to their task.

Finally, the thesis discusses the impact of the research for equal opportunity officers, and for the universities in which they worked.