26 SES 07 C JS, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Paper Session, Joint Session NW22 and NW 26
This paper exposes some findings obtained by a wider research project about Academic Managers training at the University. Specifically, it is focused on the results related to the design and the analysis of dilemmas as a training strategy in the frame of a University Academic Managers Training Program.
During last decades, higher education organizations have been suffering pressures to change and adapt to external demands. As a consequence, management and leadership at the University have faced a growing uncertainty. Nowadays managers are no longer seen as administrators that make decisions on their own. The diversity of demands set out by an effective management practice drives to recognize the convenience of academic’s training to afford them. Studies on that issue agree with our own research findings about the convenience of a methodology of a training based on practice. One way of doing so is represented by the establishment of a mentoring relation among experienced and novel managers. In front of difficulties found in participating in real contexts, another option is the design of cases to be analyzed and discussed. It allows, at the same time, a vicarious learning and a ‘putting into situation’ that facilitates the recognition of the wide range of factors that participates in making decisions in daily management practices. That becomes possible because narrative not only describes events but also organizes knowledge about them (Bruner 2000). It can be seen in opposition to a paradigmatic way of knowledge, specific of western thinking, which is interested in general causes and in the search of an empirical true. Instead of that, narrative knowledge is interested in subjective intentions and it constructs an intuitive ‘popular knowledge’ closer to practice than to theory.
Previous arguments sustain our conviction on the convenience of using narratives to put novel academic managers in contact with situations where their criteria are the only point of reference in making decisions. The core of their use is their construction and selection. In our case, they adopt the shape of dilemmas. These are a particular kind of conflict in which the individual has to make a decision between two options of equal value. Dilemmas represent one of the most difficult challenges to educational managers because there is no ‘correct answer’. They affect people and represent conflicts where different values are in competition (Duignan & Collins 2003: 282). They require making a decision based on personal criteria. Among dilemmas recognized by literature and research on the subject, we can remark:
- Personal interests against social or community convenience.
- Quality in services against rationality efficiency in the use of resources.
- Care on people against strict respect to legality (Duignan & Collins 2003: 283).
In the field of higher education management, dilemmas have no received attention. However, current complexity of higher educational system in Spain ‘submit [authorities] to strong pressures from groups that use micropolitical strategies’ (Castro & Ion 2011: 177). Consequently, managers become mediators among different internal and external sources of pressure. Those challenges are conceptualized as ‘government dilemmas’ (Larsen & al 2009) and show the intrinsic complexity of University governance and its reform. Four principal dilemmas are described:
- between representative democracy and organizational effectiveness.
- between integrated management structures and dual management structures.
- between external and internal influence in institutional decision making.
- between centralization and decentralization in more autonomous universities.
As dilemmas require complex responses, the importance of preparing managers to overcome them (Cranston & al 2006) is remarked. In doing so, analyzing dilemmas and real cases seem to be an excellent strategy in managers training.
 Sánchez- Moreno, M. (Dir) (2011/2014) Management training and building a network of good practices for government and university management, Spanish Ministry of Education, General Direction of Research Summon for Projects of R+D+I. Code: EDU2011-26437.
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