As a result of policy changes, nearly all university colleges in the UK have been redesignated as universities. This transition was studied in one such institution using semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of six academic staff and the transcripts subjected to a thematic analysis. This analysis identified three themes: staying in the past, developing as a university and awakening to challenges. A cultural framework was used to help interpret the results of the analysis which highlights how the traditions of the institution have influenced the speed and direction of the cultural change process. Another key finding from the analysis was that very few of the leadership strategies commonly used to support a process of transition appeared to be employed. The article concludes by offering insights about the change processes relevant to leaders of other institutions in the process of changing, or seeking to change, status in similar or related ways.