Higher Education Research

Learning Leaders in Times of Change : Academic Leadership Capabilities for Australian Higher Education

Geoff Scott, University of Western Sydney
Hamish Coates, ACER
Michelle Anderson, ACER

ISBN: 978-0-86431-978-4


The current study explores and identifies productive ways to address the above issues and challenges. The approach has been to build upon a decade of studying professional capability, development and change leadership in a range of contexts—most recently in a study of more than 300 effective leaders in Australian school education. The aims of the study have been to: profile academic leaders and their roles; clarify what ‘leadership’ means in an academic context; illuminate the daily realities, influences, challenges and most/least satisfying aspects of the wide range of learning and teaching roles in our universities; identify the perceived markers of effective performance in each role; identify the capabilities that leaders see as being most important for effective performance; identify the forms of support that may be of most/least assistance in developing these capabilities; determine key similarities and differences between roles; and compare the study’s findings with the existing literature on higher education leadership and the outcomes of parallel studies in other educational contexts. The focus has primarily been on formal leadership roles for learning and teaching in our universities. The specific roles studied have been: Deputy Vice-Chancellor; Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching); Dean; Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching); Head of School/Department; Head of Program; and Director (Learning and Teaching). Some of these roles focus almost exclusively on learning and teaching (e.g. the relatively recent roles of PVC [Learning and Teaching] and A/Dean [Learning and Teaching]). Other, more long standing roles like Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Dean, Head of School or Head of Department focus not only on learning and teaching but often on research, engagement and a range of budget and staff performance matters. Some leadership roles (e.g. PVC or Director of L&T) have a pan-university scope; others (e.g. Dean or Head of School) are more focused on particular portfolio responsibilities of the institution.