• Professional ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers in Further Education (FE) colleges in Wales: A study of the impact of major change

      Rowland, Caroline; Moss, Danny; Walford, Robert (University of Chester, 2019-01-14)
      Merger organizational change has been prolific across Wales and has significantly affected all Further Education (FE) colleges. The main merger driver was to reduce operational costs, whilst in the pursuit of increased organizational and departmental efficiencies and effectiveness. An imperative to widening access to education, an increase in the quality of curriculum provision and a need to reduce duplication of curriculum programmes were also important considerations. It is these changes that have shaped college organizations and the college middle manager role, post-merger, with a resulting impact on middle managers professional ‘lived’ experiences. The author’s research examines the effect of merger on the middle manager role and the influence of the college context on the ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers managing curriculum departments. The review of the literature highlights key relationships between mainstream management and the college middle manager role, as well as the influences likely to have an impact on this role. The author has developed a conceptual model with key elements consisting of professional ‘lived’ experiences of middle managers and role construct and behaviour, management and leadership. This study is exploratory in nature and uses a social constructionist philosophical approach. A subjectivist epistemology was adopted for this study, with the researcher applying a thematic analysis and an investigation of multiple realities. Data for this research was collected from in-depth semi-structured interviewees, which gave interviewees the opportunity to highlight their specific day-to-day professional ‘lived’ work experiences. The research study outlines a number of conclusions, which accord with this study’s specific research objectives and recommendations. In the post-merger era, the middle manager role has become more complex and challenging. Conclusions indicate a broader role for the middle manager, and a role defined by the college’s professional context, which contributes to influencing the college middle manager role. This study contributes to the field of academic study, and to professional practice. It provides insights to understanding the role of middle managers in the FE sector and also offers recommendations for college strategy and policy. Finally, it highlights opportunities for further research in Wales and beyond.