Higher education institutions possess a plethora of knowledge at the institutional, departmental and individual levels. Therefore, knowledge management plays a vital role in assisting partnerships to synergise knowledge and strengthen market competitiveness when working collaboratively. The purpose of this study is to identify and critically discuss the role of knowledge management concepts that support development of UK higher education partnerships. This knowledge management research was undertaken with the purpose of exploring components of behavioural constructs in assisting the development of successful partnerships between higher education institutions.
This research embraces a qualitative methodology and makes use of an expert panel method to gather field data and assess the relevance, robustness and applicability of a conceptual model developed in the context of higher education partnerships. Guided by two research questions, the researchers elicited knowledge from eight experts, academics and practitioners, who had initiated and led partnership development between UK higher education institutions. The experts were invited and selected to attend the panel using the criteria of “Years of Experience in the Higher Education sector”, “Job Positions and Experiences” and the “Partnership Scope and Impact”.
Depicting in a tree analogy, the conceptual model indicates that effective knowledge management will require higher education executives, managers and practitioners to centre on nurturing “tree roots” presented as behavioural knowledge management constructs and include institutional culture, trust, absorptive capacities and communication channels. The research findings elaborate on previous research and provide a categorisation of partnership outcomes between higher education institutions, explaining that partnership outcomes can be of an “Academic”, “Marketing and Finance” or “Managerial” nature. Importantly, practical use of the model could be implemented using audit methods or benchmarking methods, whereby the categorised elements of the model are used as a criterion of assessment for audit teams.
The conclusion extracted experiential insights to provide guidance as to how higher education executives, managers and practitioners can make use of knowledge management behavioural constructs and activities to assist collaborative undertakings in the higher education sector. This paper provided a new, modified, knowledge management higher education partnership tree, thus giving researchers and academic practitioners a holistic viewpoint of important partnership knowledge management factors.