The higher education sector and institutions are constantly having fundamental changes in their structures and operations in considerable ways. One driving force, among others, has been the issue of financial austerity with public funds being reduced gradually. Africa is no exception to such changes, though at a different level of magnitude in different countries.
In the Ugandan context, such forces raised debates on issues like privatisation, liberalisation of public sectors, including higher education institutions. In Makerere University, the response was to find more sources of income through market-like activities - entrepreneurialism. An increase in student enrolment and a diversification of academic activities have been the result of all the changes within the institution. These have, however, had a great impact on academic staff in varying ways.
Research on academic staff has been conducted on a wider spectrum, trying to understand how academics are working in new environments across different countries, such as Australia, UK and USA. However, not much emphasis especially in Uganda has been put on studying how academics who are the main actors respond to their roles. Institutional actors are perceived as the main and core actors in the stability and coherence of organisations. Are their responses in the new environment a result of institutional constraints, wider environmental factors, or individual pursuits?
The analysis provided in this study examines the symbolic element of academic staff by looking into how they respond to their roles in the changing environment, drawing on different perspectives, that is, disciplinary culture, organisational culture, and institutional theory. The study also sheds light on the academic staff opinion to the changes taking place in Makerere University