Leadership in Higher Education: a longitudinal study of local leadership for enhancing learning and teaching
AuthorsIrving, Catherine M. A.
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AbstractLocal level leadership for the enhancement of learning and teaching in higher education is an under-researched area in the leadership literature. The growth of the ‘quality agenda’ in HE over the past 20 years has led to an increase in the number and range of local leadership roles. These posts, although not usually requiring the exercise of management responsibility, have the potential for considerable influence on practice in local academic communities. This study aimed to explore local leaders’ experience of their role and to examine the barriers and opportunities they faced, in order to determine the optimum conditions for the conduct of this work. The study was focused on one regional HEI in NW England, CountyUni. A subset of data was obtained from another HEI, MetroUni, for comparative purposes. The research design adopted employed an interpretive, ethnographic approach, generating qualitative data from 29 interviews and three focus groups over the course of six years. The majority of the participants were HE staff in local level leadership roles at department or faculty level. Additionally, 8 staff in managerial roles were interviewed. Data collection focused on the characteristics and practice of local level leadership in the context of learning and teaching. Purposive sampling was used to identify participants. An iterative process was used to generate interview questions, so that significant themes could be tested for ‘saturation’ as the study progressed. Data was analysed thematically, based on the approaches of Grounded Theory. A model of the features of local leadership at department level was generated from the data. The discussion of results incorporated contributions from a number of theoretical strands in social science: structuration theory; communities of practice; networks; academic culture. The nature of local level leadership was contrasted with other extant models of leadership. The findings showed that, although leadership was demonstrated by local level leaders, there was a low level of recognition and uncertainty of the leadership aspects of these roles, with individuals often feeling that they had “responsibility without power”. The importance of leadership for learning and teaching at all levels of the institution was identified as critical to the effective implementation of local enhancement activities. It was concluded that local level leadership in this context has characteristics in common with leadership elsewhere. The absence of managerial responsibility but the presence of significant responsibility for establishing links between local academic communities and the policy development tiers of an organisation, provides particular challenges. It was shown that success was dependent upon leadership and commitment at all levels of the institution. The roles provide valuable experience for career development. Opportunities for further avenues of investigation were identified.
CitationIrving, C. M. A. (2012). Leadership in Higher Education: a longitudinal study of local leadership for enhancing learning and teaching (Doctoral dissertation). University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Liverpool
TypeThesis or dissertation
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