Research supervision development often focuses on improving the quality of researcher/student interactions and outcomes. Hence, academic development activity is usually oriented towards the development of individual capacities and practices. More recently, however, the focus has changed to the research enhancement needs of twenty-first century institutions, recognising them as complex, research-oriented workplaces. In this paper we present a model of academic development for institutional change which is situated within the framework of complexity theory: we use a case study based on a large-scale change process to demonstrate our findings. The paper illuminates the position of research-supervisor education as only one element of a complex system of changes that are necessary to effect sustained improvement in the quality of research and research training.