Structural ambidexterity in higher education: excellence education as a testing ground for educational innovations

Renze Kolster*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Excellence (‘honours’) programmes are a relatively new way in Dutch higher education institutions to serve the needs of talented and ambitious students, but may also serve as a testing ground for educational innovations. Using the structural ambidexterity concept, this paper investigates if and how excellence education functions as explorative units. Based on qualitative empirical insights from key actors at five case study higher education institutions, we conclude that excellence education function as testing grounds for education innovations. Diffused innovations are, for example, student-driven learning approaches and student assessment practices. However, the role of excellence education in a learning organisation should not be overestimated. The amount of diffused innovations is rather limited and excellence education is not the most important source of educational innovation. To improve the impact of excellence education on the organisation, we see room for improvement in the integration of excellence education in the organisation, particularly through leadership attitudes and connectedness of key actors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-81
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean journal of higher education
Issue number1
Early online date2 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 2 Dec 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • educational innovation
  • excellence
  • exploration
  • honours
  • testing ground
  • ambidexterity


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