22 SES 14 A, When Educational Leadership and Management Falls Short: Three Cases from European Higher Education Contexts
Joint Session with Network 26
Effective leadership and management are crucial to any organisation, not least, universities. The notion of the university as workplace has leapt to prominence in recent years; its ‘legitimacy’ as a focus of concern, analysis and scrutiny is underpinned by a growing body of literature (academic and grey) that implicitly or explicitly recognises that a university is only as good as the workforce that ensures its continued functionality and development. Yet in many European countries policy and initiatives that reflect this recognition are being squeezed, and in some cases compromised, by the impact of changes affecting their higher education sectors. This is a period of flux and uncertainty for European higher education. Finland is in the midst of a period of its most extensive structural reform of higher education in decades, while reforms in France are set to change the nature of French academics’ work. Having been hit particularly hard by the global economic and the resultant Eurozone crises, Ireland and Greece are buckling under the weight of imposed remedial measures that are impacting upon all public sector employment conditions and pay, including those in higher education. The UK higher education sector, too, having been hit by recent funding cuts, is now faced with impending reforms that were heralded in the recent White Paper on Higher Education, requiring universities to do more with less in order to prioritise student satisfaction.
Changes of this nature and magnitude require the European academic workforce to be flexible, resourceful and resilient. Above all, in these turbulent times the quality of institutional and academic leadership and management is crucial to sustaining morale, minimising frustration and dissatisfaction, and demonstrating and modelling effective and efficient practice. Yet this is an idealised notion that is not always realised, and what happens when leaders and managers fall short of this ideal? How does this impact upon the contexts of academics’ working lives? This is the focus of this symposium, and these are the broad research questions that will be addressed.
Drawing on occupational psychology, the sociology of work and the professions, and leadership theory, the symposium comprises three cases (located in Finland, Switzerland, and the UK) of HE leadership or management that falls short of the ideal. (Precisely what determines ‘the ideal’ varies in each case: sometimes it is determined by perceptions of ‘the led’ – those on the receiving end of the leadership – sometimes it is defined more objectively as leadership or management of a quality that is likely to foster, and contribute significantly towards sustaining, positive work-related attitudes and be instrumental in implementing effective policies and practice.) Each of the presenters will analyse the impact upon academics and academic working life of leadership or management that fails to meet individuals’ or institutional needs or expectations. The symposium will highlight the importance of leadership and management in the higher education sector and examine how this important role can be carried out more effectively.
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