22 SES 11 E JS, Leadership in Higher Education
Joint Paper Session NW 22 and NW 26
The broader context of this presentation is an ongoing, mixed-methods research project that examines the impact of changing work environment on academics’ well-being at public universities in the Czech Republic (‘Quality of work environment and employee well-being in public higher education’, The Czech Sciences Foundation Grant, 2014-2016). The objective of the project is to examine how academics experience and respond to increasing pressures to adopt market-oriented reforms at Czech public universities which have so far been characterized by strong collegial culture and “almost unprecedented” levels of autonomy (Prudký, Pabian, Šima, 2010, p. 78) from the state and the market. Thus, the university environment in the Czech Republic provides an interesting contrast to strong market driven countries (Shin, Jung, 2014) in which universities have already undergone the “neoliberal turn” towards audit processes, quality assurance, and performance management (Teelken, Deem, 2013).
Within this broader context, the presentation specifically focuses on the qualitative analysis of academic leadership. Based on interviews with academics in managerial positions we explore how academics experience and understand themselves as leaders. Drawing on other studies in the area (e.g., Middlehurst, 2008; Floyd, 2012; Juntrasook, 2014), our particular interest is in understanding how academics in managerial positions construct meanings of leadership, how they negotiate their (often conflicting) identities of scientists, managers, and leaders, and the ways in which they respond to tensions between the still strong norms of collegiality and academic autonomy and the emerging pressures for marketization of academic work. Our focus is on the middle leadership level represented by Heads of Departments. Although this is a key position within the university management, it has been both empirically and theoretically under-researched (Branson, Franken, Penney, 2016).
This presentation aims to explore how academics in managerial positions (specifically Heads of Departments) experience and understand themselves as leaders within the broader context of transforming academic governance at public universities in the Czech Republic.
The study draws on organizational theory and critical management studies (Alvesson, 2013; Lemmergaard, Muhr, 2013). In making sense of academic leadership, we follow Alvesson’s (2013, p.100) claim: “Understanding leadership calls for careful consideration of the social context in which processes of leadership take place. Leadership is…complex social process in which the meaning and interpretations of what is said and done are crucial”. The social context that is vital for the analysis of academic leadership in our study includes changing academic cultures, particularly the shift from collegial to market culture (e.g., Bergquist, Pawlak, 2008). Relatedly, the transformation of academic systems and governance (Shin, Jung, 2014) provides more global social context when exploring social constructions of academic leadership.
Alvesson, M. (2013). Understanding Organizational Culture. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, SAGE. Bergquist, W. H., Pawlak, K. (2008). Engaging the six cultures of the academy: Revised and expanded edition of the four cultures of the academy. John Wiley & Sons.Branson. Franken, M., Penney, D. (2016). Middle leadership in higher education: A relational analysis. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(1), 128-145. Braun, V., Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Floyd, A. (2012). Turning points: The personal and professional circumstances that lead academics to become middle managers. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 40(2), 272-284. Juntrasook, A. (2014). ‘You do not have to be the boss to be a leader’: Contested meanings of leadership in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(1), 19-31. Lemmergaard, J., Muhr, S. L. (2013). Critical perspectives on leadership. Emotion, toxicity and dysfunction. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. Middlehurst, R. (2008). Not enough science or not enough learning? Exploring the gaps between leadership theory and practice. Higher Education Quarterly [online]. 62(4), 322-339. Prudký, L. Pabian, P., Šima, K. (2010). České vysoké školství. Na cestě od elitního k univerzálnímu vzdělávání 1989-2009 [Czech higher education: From elite to universal education 1989-2009]. Prague: Grada. Shin, J. C., Jung, J. (2013). Academics job satisfaction and job stress across countries in the changing academic environments. Higher Education, 67 (5), 603-620. Teelken, C., Deem, R. (2013). All are equal, but some are more equal than others: managerialism and gender equality in higher education in comparative perspective. Comparative Education, 49(4), 520-535.
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