The 2013 International Leadership Conference: Managing Global Universities

A report on the conference held at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

global

Last November delegates from UK, Australia, Middle East, China, India gathered in the unique setting of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China to explore the challenges of managing universities in an era of globalization.

The conference, supported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, was organized to bring together senior managers and leaders to share best practice around developing and operating campuses abroad, and builds on Nottingham’s strengths as a successful research-led UK university with an excellent reputation for international leadership and management.

The conference opened with an overview (from me) of Nottingham’s experience of operating campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.

This first presentation led on the benefits for both universities and their students of opening campuses abroad, highlighting Nottingham’s strengths as a successful research-led UK university with an excellent reputation for international leadership and management. Clarity of vision, long-term commitment and a detailed understanding of the local context were crucial to success.

The session outlined the programme for the event which covered every dimension of international higher education leadership, from strategy development to global branding, virtual provision to researching in China and many aspects of student and staff experiences.

The four-day specialised conference offered speakers from many other international institutions with expertise in globalising higher education. These included  senior managers from i-Graduate, Benoy, The Parthenon Group, The Association of Business Schools, the British Council and other universities, Murdoch University, the University of Liverpool and the University of the West of Scotland. Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Greenaway, as well as the University’s the Director of Marketing, Communications and Recruitment, the Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning and the Deputy Director of Human Resources all participated in speeches and workshop sessions. Nottingham’s international leaders, the Provost and CEO of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), the Provost and the Vice Provost of UNNC were also involved.

Full details about the International Leadership Conference can be found here.

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China as an exemplar of global higher education leadership

Professor Nick Miles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, launched proceedings and spoke passionately of the successes of UNNC and the enormous opportunities for further growth and development in China. The campus had achieved much and staff had overcome many challenges and now occupied a prominent position in the Chinese Higher Education system. In addition to exploring the local, regional and national context, he addressed strategic issues, the quality of the education provided and the high calibre of students, graduate employability (which sees 100% progress into jobs or higher level study), quality assurance, cultural issues and staffing matters.

Context

Nottingham represents a new model of global higher education. Students and staff are offered study and travel opportunities to help position them for success, and Nottingham conducts coordinated research on some of the most pressing global human concerns and social problems simultaneously in three different but complementary national contexts.

The University established its first overseas campus in Malaysia 13 years ago and has since won two Queen’s Awards – one for Enterprise in International Trade in 2001 and another in 2006 in recognition of Nottingham’s position as the world’s first foreign university to receive a licence to open a campus in China.

The University has been building international links for decades. In 1950, the first group of Malaysian students arrived in Nottingham, beginning an over 60-year association with the University which has seen Nottingham graduates such as YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, become leading members of society. In 2000, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus first opened its doors to just 90 students in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, our student body in Malaysia has grown to almost 5,000 – including more than 70 nationalities – based at our 125-acre dedicated campus site in Semenyih.

The University’s links with China also date back many years, featuring well over 90 collaborations with Chinese universities. In 1999 the University elected academician Professor Yang Fujia as its Chancellor. With the then Vice-Chancellor, Sir Colin Campbell, they developed a vision for a new hybrid style of university in China. In July 2003, new legislation in China was passed permitting the establishment of foreign campuses in China. The University of Nottingham was the first university to receive a licence to operate a campus under this legislation. The result was the opening in 2004 of the campus in the prosperous and successful city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. The University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus now has over 5,800 students.

unnc 2

Strategy development

David Wright, Senior Advisor to the Parthenon Group explored the full range of issues involved in developing a global strategy for higher education institutions. Delegates considered key dimensions of strategy and discussed the continued growth in student numbers, the operation of international offices in universities, the emergence of the ‘Agent Corporation’ as a major player in the global student recruitment market and different aspects of channel management for institutions in developing their strategies.

The Chinese higher education market

Understanding China’s market for higher education was the theme for Jeremy Chan Regional Head of Research and Consultancy in East Asia for the British Council. Jeremy set out a comprehensive picture of China’s economy, demographic and political developments. Although he noted that population changes had led some to suggest that the appetite for higher education for students within China and those who wished to travel abroad it was his view that the growing affluence of the population overall meant that student numbers would continue to grow in the coming years. The UK remained the top partner for transnational education in China although its activities were heavily biased towards undergraduate provision unlike, for example, the US and Australia which had larger postgraduate numbers involved. Branch campus operations, where the University of Nottingham Ningbo China had led the way, were also being pursued by an increasing number of other leading Western universities.

Routes to internationalisation

Professor Christine Ennew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, explored the motivation of universities in mapping new routes to internationalisation in higher education across academic, cultural, political and economic dimensions. She argued that higher education has always been international in character and unconstrained by national borders but the challenge now was to deal with the sheer scale of such activity and to manage internationalization effectively. A range of different models of international engagement were explored and the many challenges, pitfalls and benefits considered.

Global reputation, branding and communications

Emma Leech, Director of Marketing, Communications and Recruitment at the University of Nottingham UK explored the challenges faced by higher education in establishing global branding and reputation and informed delegates of the approach which had been taken by Nottingham in developing its position. The challenges of plotting a distinctive course and sustaining reputation were discussed. A further session looked at transformational communications and the need to harness engagement across institutions to support change with specific reference to online opportunities. A range of possibilities were explored including social media, which, whilst challenging to manage effectively,  could be used creatively to engage students and to assist with change management. At the heart of such activity though was the need to communicate with clarity and to ensure transparency.

Making teaching count

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland offered a passionately delivered case for the fundamental importance of teaching within higher education and for its thorough professionalization. Noting that all too often academic staff tended to rely on their own, often extremely dated, student experience as the basis for their teaching methods, he argued strongly that all teachers should be trained to teach. Not only did they need to understand and build upon the experiences of today’s school children, tomorrow’s undergraduates, but all teachers had to be accustomed to exploiting technology in order to enhance the learning experience. Professor Mahoney went on to propose a European or even a global academy for teaching and learning in order to support, promote and reinforce the vital status of teaching.

Student matters

Student satisfaction, benchmarking the global student experience, data and feedback were covered in whirlwind presentation by Will Archer, Chief Executive of iGraduate, which tracks student views across the globe. Drawing on the example of one leading university he explained how Student Barometer data could be used to drive change and improvement in the student experience.

Professor Julie Sanders, Vice-Provost for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, and Professor Wyn Morgan, Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham UK, discussed approaches to developing and delivering an international student experience. Covering issues around changing student profile, promoting global citizenship, the challenges of internationalizing the curriculum and creative approaches to classroom activities, the presenters offered a comprehensive picture of the student experience in a very different context. Hot topics such as blended online and face to face learning, use of social media in teaching and the rise of MOOCs in China were also the subject of debate.

unnc 1

Online learning

Virtual spaces as places for learning and the role of postgraduate online global higher education communities was the topic for Professor Clare Pickles, Academic Director (Education) for Laureate Online Education and Director of Online Studies for the University of Liverpool’s Professional Doctorate in Higher Education. Clare provided a comprehensive overview of the ways in which her students work and collaborate online and how they are aided by faculty and student support advisors located around the globe. Delegates also learned about the development of an online graduate school and Clare’s own YouTube channel through which she provided updates to students on current higher education issues as she travelled round the world.

The business end

Paul Marshall, Chief Executive of the Association of Business Schools (ABS), explored the challenges of running business schools in a global higher education environment. Noting the remarkable fact that 90% of MBA students in the UK were international he went on to observe that too many business schools looked too similar and offered the same provision. Whilst 16 business schools in the UK and 59 worldwide had triple accreditation, which was seen as a major selling point, it was not clear that students valued accreditation at all. All faced major challenges, wherever in the world they operated, and ABS was undertaking a range of activities to support and guide change in the sector.

Research in China

Undertaking research in China offers huge opportunities for new areas of work but also some challenges. Professor Fintan Cullen, Dean of Arts and Education and Acting Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China., led a lively session involving academic colleagues from English and Contemporary China Studies and three current PhD students from Education, the Business School and Economics. The major attraction for researchers was the fact that many areas of activity in many disciplines had not been subject to serious investigation and therefore the territory was very open for all kinds of research. Delegates were fascinated to hear the research students outline their studies in consumer behaviour, international university branch campus leadership and the import challenges for foreign companies operating in China. All agreed that the unique opportunities offered by the presence of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China made research activity hugely attractive. Such research would often push against boundaries but care was required to avoid breaching them. Further discussion covered the training provided for new PhD supervisors and the progress in building a graduate community in the University.

People

The many challenges of international staff recruitment were covered in a session led by Peter McCracken, Deputy Director of Human Resources at the University of Nottingham.  Addressing everything from contractual issues, tax matters, visas, the particular complexities of operating in China and the importance of pre-interview campus visits and comprehensive induction arrangements, the session gave rise to a whole host of detailed questions from delegates. The make up of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China’s staff was also explored and the presenter acknowledged that the challenges faced continued to change and evolve although huge progress had been made.

Leading in global higher education

Changing patterns of leadership in a global higher education environment was the theme for Jon Baldwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Professional Services) at Australia’s Murdoch University. In an entertaining survey of different models and structures of leadership in universities from the collegial to the bureaucratic, all of which were in some way contested he noted that a recent study published by the UK’s Leadership Foundation had concluded that “nothing efinitive can be said about leadership in higher education”. One key example he explored was the different leadership approaches which had been taken by different universities to the establishment of overseas branch campuses. The most insightful analysis of HE leadership though he attributed to a taxi driver who, after hearing a detailed explanation of the Registrar’s role, summarized it in a distinctively positive way: “all indoors and no heavy lifting”.

Striking parallels

Graham Cartledge CBE, Chairman of Benoy, the major international firm of architects, provided a distinctive angle on the issue of global leadership in taking delegates on a tour from “Cowsheds to Kowloon, beyond and back” which set out Benoy’s international

Graham Cartledge

Graham Cartledge

growth story. The journey since the early days of the company in Newark in the 1970s and a difficult set of circumstances in the recession of the early 80s led to a number of breakthrough moments over subsequent years including the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, the redevelopment of the Bullring in Birmingham, the creation of Media City in Salford and the Westfield shopping centre in East London. Since then the company had grown hugely and internationally and undertaken major projects in Hong Kong, China and Abu Dhabi. Benoy realized early on the opportunities provided by the growth of China’s economy and now had a major presence there and over 300 staff based in East Asia. The company retained a strong entrepreneurial ethos and sought to move staff around its offices to ensure a sustained culture and that the company could respond in a consistent manner. Thinking internationally and acting locally was a key feature of Benoy’s strategy and the effective sharing of knowledge across the organisation was seen as an essential success factor. Delegates were hugely impressed with the presentation and the many parallels with global higher education developments.

Leading the global university

In a keynote presentation the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, Professor David Greenaway, set out the origins of the University’s internationalization strategy and the recognition that the future was in Asia which ultimately led to the establishment of campuses in Malaysia and China. He stressed the long term commitment to continuing to work in both nations and the development of new research strands – including in global food security via the Crops for the Future initiative in Malaysia and the new International Academy for the Marine Economy and Technology in Ningbo, the fourth largest port in the world. Clarity of vision, integration of systems and processes across three campuses and the strength of local leadership were highlighted as key success factors.

Conclusion

Overall, conference participants enjoyed an outstanding and diverse range of sessions and the lessons learned for leading global universities. Delegates were thanked for their contributions and it was hoped that they had benefitted from exploring these major strategic themes across higher education in the unique and real context of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Advertisements

The Imperfect University: 2013 collection

Because universities are still difficult, but still worth it

With the latest post, on Robbins, we are now up to a total of 18 pieces to date in the Imperfect University series. Covering a wide range of occasionally relevant issues I do hope there is something for everyone in here. And there is a question at the end.  Anyway, do let me know what you think – here are the posts from 2013:

The first chapter

A collection of the first series of Imperfect University posts from 2012

Sectoral change since Robbins and into the future

A piece based on a conference presentation looking at changes in higher education in the past 50 years and what the future might hold.

Rational admissions

On why it is time to look again at a move to post-qualification admissions or PQA.

Know your history

A piece about the value of a well-developed sense of institutional history.

The end of internationalisation?

Why MOOCs really aren’t going to end universities’ international activities.

Free information?

On the problems with and impact of freedom of information requests.

What do we know about leadership in higher education?

Not a great deal seems to be the answer.

Truly transnational

A look at the dimensions of a genuinely global higher education operation.

Finally, from the top – The Imperfect University provides the original introduction to the series

More to follow in the year ahead. In the meantime, here’s a question. Is it time for an Imperfect University book?

Whatever the answer, will keep the series going.

Inspiring Leadership

A Decade of Leadership from the Leadership Foundation.

A new HEPI report is out. Inspiring Leadership – Personal Reflections on Leadership in Higher Education is written by Ewart Wooldridge who recently stood down as Chief Executive of the Leadership Foundation after 10 years at the helm. As he says in the introduction things have changed a bit over this time:

Over those ten years, the pressures on university leaders have grown hugely. Higher Education has shifted from being collaborative to competitive and market driven, from a sector to a looser system, from national to transnational, and from certain to uncertain. Today, the key requirements of university leadership seem to be agility, distinctiveness and the capacity to spot the right kind of alliance to build resilience in the face of competition and uncertainty. But also the ability to manage the paradox of operating in a market whilst still upholding the traditional values of the sector.

It’s a nice piece and a succinct reflection on the demands of university leadership. Wooldridge argues that we need leaders who:Ewart-Wooldridge-web

  • understand how to make ‘tight/loose’ work in balancing the academic and business domains
  • can discover the ‘game changing’ generative domain and make it happen, and
  • can build the kind of ‘guiding coalitions’ that really embed the changes behaviourally.

My only real disappointment is that, unlike many other LFHE publications, I struggled to find points to disagree with in the report. So I won’t look to find ways to pick an argument but rather reproduce the author’s final comments:

Higher Education has been a wonderful world to have worked in with some of the most inspiring examples of leadership, but there are still plenty of challenges, of which I would highlight just three:

    • There is still a residuum of the ‘heroic’ leadership culture that the LFHE research on top leadership uncovered. The more engaging and inclusive style which we have seen develop seems critical for the new era of HE
    • We need to challenge the sector on the diversity of its leadership and governance bodies so that they reflect much more the gender and ethnicity of the communities they serve
    • We need to do more development work inside Celia Whitchurch’s collaborative “third space” between academic and professional cultures which is rich in possibilities.

I look forward to more of this in the future.

2013 International Leadership Conference: Managing Global Universities

A reminder about this forthcoming conference taking place at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

global

The 2013 event, which takes place from Monday 4 – Thursday 7 November 2013 will mark the third anniversary of the International Leadership Conference. The conference has previously welcomed delegates from the UK, Denmark, China, Colombia, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the US and Belgium. The event is designed for senior leaders to discuss and share best practice on important topics around the internationalisation of higher education.

Full details about the International Leadership Conference can be found here.

The Imperfect University: what do we know about HE leadership?

What do we know about leadership in higher education?

 

Not a lot, seems to be the answer.

I’ve written a bit before in the Imperfect University series about leadership in universities. There is a new report out which seeks to sum up what we know about leadership in HE.

This report, written by Professor Jacky Lumby  and published by the Leadership Foundation, must have been difficult for the LFHE to come to terms with. I think they deserve credit for publishing it as it does rather suggest that we really haven’t learned an awful lot about leadership in HE despite all the research undertaken by, among others, the Leadership Foundation. It is a fascinating and refreshingly candid read.

F9AA402C809A43E5421B506E76C01028It considers the big questions about leadership in HE:

  • Does the HE context demand a distinctive approach?
  • Who are the leaders in higher education?
  • How do the leaders operate and how effectively?
  • How important is leadership?

And the findings are perhaps somewhat surprising.

Is HE really that different?

So is  leadership in HE really that different from other parts of the education sector or public services or even parts of the commercial world? No. The conclusion here is that HE really might not be as different as is sometimes claimed although nature of academics and their work can create a “distinctive environment.”

Who are the leaders?

Overall, LFHE’s research distinguishes institutional management from leadership, and sees the latter as widely and fluidly dispersed, including, but not limited to, those in formal leadership roles.

There is real dispute about who are the leaders with many of those ostensibly in leadership roles not being regarded as such by those they seek to lead. Moreover, for some the “resistance by determinedly autonomous staff is argued to negate leadership.” This makes the HE institution sound like a playground gang or even worse, a political party.

Leadership to what end?

Leadership-foundationLFHE’s research and the wider literature embodies a yawning divergence in leaders’ espoused values and beliefs about who and what universities are for.

This is an outstanding conclusion. This divergence would suggest that universities could never succeed. But they do, despite all their inherent contradictions (including those of their leaders, whoever they are).

What do leaders do?

It seems that most people report that leaders do things relating to vision:

While there is a frequently reported desire for vision, there is little evidence of
 its practical creation or impact. Summaries of actions other than vision tend to the general and positive, and are in many cases ambiguous. This may be in part a result of self-reported methods and also of generalising across varied roles in different contexts. We know little about the detail of practice.

I just love this. It suggests that this visioning is (as per Rozyscki) no more than ‘happy talk’ and that the research  is unable to conclude whether this is because the vision isn’t good enough or because the whole vision thing is just ritualistic and illusory.

Effectiveness

We seem to be clutching at straws in trying to establish whether there is any evidence for leadership benefiting universities in terms of their core activities:

Evidence of the impact of leadership on the extent and quality of research, learning and enterprise is rather slim.

Moreover, university staff inevitably have contrasting views on what effectiveness means, what its characteristics are and indeed whether individuals can even be described in this way:

What works in one context will not necessarily work 
in another, and equally may be judged as effective
 and ineffective in the same context. As in the wider literature, the research generates lists of characteristics 
of effective leaders that are somewhat idealised and apolitical. Oppositional narratives underpin estimates of effectiveness; a rational narrative stresses data-driven, command and control, while an alternative prizes an open- ended and fluid creation of space in which autonomy can flourish. Effectiveness is currently related to individuals, but might be more usefully applied to units.

Does it matter?

Many clearly believe that leadership matters but the research is not conclusive:

Despite the widespread assertion that leadership is vital, in the absence of convincing evidence of the impact of leadership on higher education’s core activities there is only evidence of the degree to which people believe leadership to be discernible and important or otherwise. The evidence base is unsatisfactory but still suggests that leadership is often, although not always, important.

A reassuring message for HE leaders everywhere.

Conclusion

As if that all weren’t enough to be worrying about the report concludes:

A good deal has been achieved in depicting the richness of players and their approaches to leadership. LFHE’s commissioned research avoids reductive over-simplification and provides certainty that there is no certainty about how to act, no rules about what works. Its research on leadership provides stimulation and material for praxis rather than definitive models. What it offers is a contribution to understanding the ecology of the leadership of higher education, so that actions and interventions may be located within a better knowledge base.

So, to offer a reductive and over-simplified summary, we don’t know much and nothing is certain but there is loads of interesting stuff to think about. A really nice report and well worth a read. All the relevant research (although I was surprised not to see Amanda Goodall’s Socrates in the Boardroom there) is contained in a handy bibliography too.

I love HE.

The Imperfect University: the first chapter

Because universities are difficult, but worth it

This year there have been a dozen posts in the Imperfect University series. Covering leadership, staff mobility, regulation, governance in Scotland and Virginia, not so revolutionary online provision, the CDBU and more regulation, there was I hope something of interest for many in here somewhere.

The Imperfect University

An introduction to the series

Who should lead universities?

What kind of people do universities need as leaders – is appointing a top academic enough?

More and more regulation

Despite the rhetoric we always seem to end up with additional rather than reduced regulation in higher education.

Reviewing higher education in Scotland

Comments on a recent review of university governance in Scotland.

Do we need a level playing field?

Some discussion on this frequently used argument.

Massive Open Online Confusion?

On why Massive Open Online Courses aren’t perhaps as revolutionary as is claimed by some.

Governance Challenges at the University of Virginia

On the removal of the President at the University of Virginia. Messy.

The Cult of Efficiency

A look at a book from 1962, Education and the Cult of Efficiency, which offers a salutary warning about the hazards of imposing inappropriate models in education.

Graduation – a bit London 2012?

London 2012 crowd

London 2012 crowd


A comparison between graduation events and the feel good Olympics. With other observations about graduation.

Mobility Matters

Developing and moving professional services staff.

First for the chop

Why there really aren’t too many administrators in universities. Honest.

How not to defend higher education

Commentary on the launch of the Council for the Defence of British Universities.

More to follow in 2013.

The Imperfect University: the year to date

Because universities are difficult, but worth it

With the latest post, on why administrators really do matter in universities,  we are now up to a total of 11 pieces to date in the Imperfect University series. Covering leadership, staff mobility, regulation, governance in Scotland and Virginia, not so revolutionary online provision, the cult of efficiency and more regulation I hope there is something for everyone in here. Anyway, do let me know what you think – here are all of the posts for reference:

The Imperfect University

An introduction to the series

Who should lead universities?

What kind of people do universities need as leaders – is appointing a top academic enough?

More and more regulation

Despite the rhetoric we always seem to end up with additional rather than reduced regulation in higher education.

Reviewing higher education in Scotland

Comments on a recent review of university governance in Scotland.

Do we need a level playing field?

Some discussion on this frequently used argument.

Massive Open Online Confusion?

On why Massive Open Online Courses aren’t perhaps as revolutionary as is claimed by some.

Governance Challenges at the University of Virginia

On the removal of the President at the University of Virginia. Messy.

The Cult of Efficiency

A look at a book from 1962, Education and the Cult of Efficiency, which offers a salutary warning about the hazards of imposing inappropriate models in education.

Graduation – a bit London 2012?

A comparison between graduation events and the feel good Olympics. With other observations about graduation.

Mobility Matters

Developing and moving professional services staff.

First for the chop

Why there really aren’t too many administrators in universities. Honest

More to follow in due course.

The Imperfect University: Governance challenges at the University of Virginia

University of Virginia: considerable turbulance at the top

A rather topical post for the latest in the Imperfect University series. There have been some extraordinary goings on at the University of Virginia. To the surprise of just about everyone the University’s Board of Visitors (its governing body) decided two weeks ago to remove the President, Teresa Sullivan, after only two years at the helm.  Full details of all official statements are available on the University’s website together with links to some of the major news reports on this. It’s a really messy business and must be hugely destabilising for the University.


So why has the Board decided to take this extreme step? According to the statement by the Rector on June 10:

the Board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years.  We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.

We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payors.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions.

We want UVA to remain in that top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond. We want this to be a place that lives up to Mr. Jefferson’s founding vision of excellence. We want it to be a place that attracts the best and the brightest in scholarship, teaching, patient care, and community service.

To achieve these aspirations, the Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential.  We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment.  We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals.

The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change.  The world is simply moving too fast.

This would suggest that the Board’s fundamental concern is that change in the University is insufficient both in scale and pace in order to meet the challenges it faces. And that the President therefore has to be replaced with a bolder leader in order to ensure such change happens. It really is a quite remarkable statement. Whilst such events are not rare in other sectors it does seem like extreme step in a higher education context.

Meanwhile, back to the action – The Washington Post reported on a demonstration in support of the ousted President:

Sullivan was forced out after a closed-door meeting of the board. The June 10 announcement that she would resign blindsided Sullivan and ignited a furor at Virginia’s flagship university, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Rotunda on Monday to show their support for Sullivan, who gained wide popularity since taking the job in 2010.

U.Va.’s Faculty Senate and other groups had called for Kington and Rector Helen Dragas to step down as they severely criticized the board’s handling of Sullivan’s removal. Dragas and Kington joined in the behind-the-scenes effort to call for her resignation, and no board members have publicly discussed specific reasons behind the decision.

There is still a long way for this story to go and the New York Times has reported on some other changes on the Board:

In the continuing turmoil after the abrupt ouster of University of Virginia’s president, Teresa Sullivan, on June 10, the university’s vice rector, Mark Kington, and a prominent computer science professor have resigned — and some faculty members say there may soon be enough turnover on the 16-member Board of Visitors that Dr. Sullivan could be reinstated.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who appoints the board, could fill as many as six seats on the university’s governing body on July 1. In addition to Mr. Kington’s replacement, he has the ability to replace the rector, Helen E. Dragas, whose term is ending. Another member is up for reappointment, two will rotate off the board and an appointment is needed to fill a seat created this year.

On Tuesday, when the board voted 12 to 1 to name Carl P. Zeithaml as interim president, there were two abstentions and one absence, so a shift of six would put the outcome of future votes in question. Furthermore, one member who voted for Mr. Zeithaml’s appointment has said he hopes to undo Dr. Sullivan’s resignation.

There does seem to be a view, at least among Dr Sullivan’s supporters, that these imminent changes to the Board membership could somehow lead to her reinstatement. These appointments though appear to be in the hands of the State Governor and it is not at all clear what he will choose to do nor what effect it will have. But the bigger question the Board will ultimately have to answer is how this radical change can be shown to be in the long term interests of the University. HE institutions are fundamentally concerned with delivering change in the long run and effective stewardship and a concern for real sustainability has to be at the heart of any governing body’s actions. It is simply not clear at this stage how this dramatic step will help UVa deliver its ultimate ambitions.

In considering the fall out from this affair Chronicle also carries an extensive piece and follows up on the specfic issue of appointing a leader who will deliver the kind of “strategic dynamism” which the UVa Board seems to think is lacking:

So what is “strategic dynamism,” and who are its practitioners? Quite the opposite of the methodical, long-term visions found in most universities’ strategic plans, strategic dynamism implies a near-constant “stirring of the pot” within an organization, explains Donald C. Hambrick, a professor of management at Pennsylvania State University’s main campus.

That could mean wild changes in asset allocation within a company’s investment portfolio or a radical alteration of a business’s marketing approach. Proponents of strategic dynamism value the potential rewards of substantial, fast-paced change more than the stability of a gradual strategic evolution, Mr. Hambrick says.

There’s another thing about executives who embrace strategic dynamism: They’re totally in love with themselves, Mr. Hambrick says. In 2007, Mr. Hambrick co-authored a study that found a strong correlation between a chief executive’s level of narcissism and his or her penchant for making frequent changes consistent with strategic dynamism.

The study used five indicators to measure a chief executive’s narcissism, including the prominence of the executive’s photographs in a company’s annual report, the frequency of the executive’s name in company news releases, the disparity between the chief executive’s compensation and that of the company’s second in command, and the frequency with which the chief executive uses first-person-singular pronouns in interviews.

“Having a narcissist for your CEO and engaging in strategic dynamism carries risk,” he continues. “It’s almost axiomatic that if you engage in strategic dynamism and take a big risk, you’re going to have extreme outcomes.”

There is no shortage of criticism that higher education moves too slowly, and there are plenty of trustees and pundits who would say a dose of strategic dynamism is just the kick in the pants the industry needs.

A previous post discussed the issue of who should lead universities and the UVa case gives us a different angle on this. Dr Sullivan is, by all accounts, an outstanding academic with significant experience including four years as provost at the University of Michigan and as executive vice chancellor of the University of Texas system. It seems though that the UVa Board has determined that it needs someone other than an academic. Or perhaps just a different kind of academic.

Will Dr Sullivan be reinstated? Will the University Board appoint a narcissist to replace her? Who knows. However, the turmoil this change has caused will continue to impact on the University for some time to come. It is difficult to predict what the long term consequences will be but in the short term at the very least it is a huge distraction for staff and things aren’t going to get any easier until this matter is resolved.

One footnote to all of this. US press reports on this issue commonly refer to the “ouster” of the President. I find this usage bizarre and for some days thought there was a specific individual being identified as the person who did the ousting rather than the ouster being the event itself.

The Imperfect University: the story so far

Because universities are difficult, but worth it

I’ve managed six posts to date in the Imperfect University series to date. Covering leadership, regulation, governance in Scotland, not so revolutionary online provision and more regulation I hope I’ve managed to offer something a bit more substantial here. Anyway, I’d be grateful for any feedback on the series and in the meantime thought it would be helpful to provide links to all six pieces here for your convenience:

The Imperfect University

An introduction to the series

Who should lead universities?

What kind of people do universities need as leaders – is appointing a top academic enough?

More and more regulation

Despite the rhetoric we always seem to end up with additional rather than reduced regulation in higher education.

Reviewing higher education in Scotland

Comments on a recent review of university governance in Scotland. Not pretty.

Do we need a level playing field?

Some discussion on this frequently used argument.

Massive Open Online Confusion?

On why Massive Open Online Courses aren’t perhaps as revolutionary as is claimed by some.

Plenty more in the pipeline.

Engineers in charge?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece on an interesting development at Georgia Tech. The argument here is that we should deploy the skills of the engineer in running our universities in order to properly to address the problems we face:

So what if engineers tackled those problems using their reasoning skills and tested various solutions through simulations? Perhaps then we will truly design a university of the future.

That’s the basic idea behind Georgia Tech’s new Center for 21st Century Universities. The center is officially described as a “living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education,” but its director, Rich DeMillo, describes it in terms we can all understand: higher-education’s version of the Silicon Valley “garage.” DeMillo knows that concept well, having come from Hewlett-Packard, where he was chief technology officer (he’s also a former Georgia Tech dean).

Applying the garage mentality to innovation in higher ed is an intriguing concept, and as DeMillo described it to me over breakfast on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus Wednesday, I realized how few college leaders adopt its principles. Take, for example, a university’s strategic plan. Such documents come and go with presidents, and the proposals in every new one are rarely tested in small ways before leaders try to scale them across the campus. After all, presidents have little time to make a mark before moving on to their next job.

The details of the “living laboratory” make it look really rather interesting. However, I’m not sure that the analysis of university strategic planning is entirely valid. Nor that this is a compelling argument for having engineers in charge. After all, it does also rather suggest here that they would rather be in the “garage”.

Administrators cannot offer ‘enlightened management’

Some views on administrators and academics as university leaders

Geoffrey Williams has recently argued that administrators cannot deliver enlightened management in universities. According to Williams only academics can do so:

Administration, like death and taxes, has always been here. Universities need enlightened management; the reality is that only faculty can provide this. Universities also require and employ professional managers. The situation is similar to that in hospitals, another world that requires great dedication from its staff. As everyone knows, if you leave a hospital solely in the hands of professional administrators, the patient is forgotten. Likewise, if you leave a university solely in the hands of a professional manager, there is a risk that both students and research will no longer be to the fore.

David Allen offers a rather different perspective:

Only about one in three employees of universities are academics, but given the academic purpose of universities they tend to have the biggest input in shaping the job and person description, at least in general terms, for VC and other leadership appointments. I take it as a given that senior managers in universities, even if they are not academics, must be able to empathise with academic values and to create strong, positive relations with academic colleagues. Universities are not and should not be command and control organisations. Managers need to proceed by persuasion and the force of the evidenced better argument. Creativity, tension, individuality and resistance to change are often embedded in the academic DNA. Academics have many and varied strategies to bypass managerial processes and edicts which they perceive to inhibit their activities and it is clearly more difficult for a manager who lacks academic credibility to achieve acceptance. A VC/DVC/PVC with an academic pedigree starts higher up the grid and has more of a reservoir of goodwill when difficult choices have to be made. This needs to be balanced with the changing requirements for Vice-Chancellors to be credible with business, not least in relation to fundraising. Academic credibility needs perhaps to be balanced more with other requirements for senior management success rather than as a sine qua non and a barrier to entry to the competition for otherwise well qualified candidates. This would increase the talent pool available for consideration from both within and outwith the sector.

Allen argues sensibly for an open minded approach to recruiting university leaders rather than Williams’ more exclusive approach. All of this echoes an earlier post on the issue of whether academics do indeed make the best university leaders and in particular why it is unhelpful to focus solely on this issue of who is better equipped to lead:

…if a university simply disregards the importance of a first class administration to support first class teaching and world-leading research then it will end up with disorganised, chaotic and expensive processes which hinder rather than help – it is this scenario which has the most negative impact on the productivity of researchers. It’s like building an excellent football team but paying no attention to the pitch, stadium or finances. You might perform well for a time but not sustainably. And sooner or later those star players will get fed up with washing their own kit, selling programmes and clearing up the stands after the game.

So, whilst I might remain mildly annoyed at the suggestion that someone like me could only ever offer benighted misdirection to a university, what really irks about all of this is the idea of mutual exclusivity: whatever the background of the leader, s/he will not be acting alone and will have a team of colleagues working with her/him to deliver success. Universities may well often best be led by leading academics but no one individual, whatever their background, is going to be able to do everything on their own. Universities are just too big, complex and diverse.

Nottingham wins a THELMA

THE Leadership and Management Awards 2011: Outstanding Communications and Marketing Team

The full details of the results in each category can be found on the THE site. An earlier post reported the nominations Nottingham had received.

On a really entertaining evening this was a terrific win for the University of Nottingham. And this is what the judges said:

“Highly innovative, collaborative and novel in its approach to marketing.”
These were some of the judging panel’s comments about the University of Nottingham, where effective marketing has “changed public perceptions about the institution globally and supported a cultural sea change internally”.
Nottingham set out ambitious yet achievable targets to enhance the univer- sity’s brand, while at the same time saving at least £200,000 by resourceful tendering and bringing web marketing work in- house. The team oversaw a university-wide rebrand, as well as updating Nottingham’s visual identity and logo. Its efforts are credited with contributing to a 14 per cent increase in the number of undergraduate applications and a 29 per cent rise in the number of postgraduate applications.
Nottingham calculated its media coverage for the year at an advertising value of £24 million. It also raised its overseas profile by participating in the 2010 Shanghai Expo world fair.
Cary Cooper, chair of the Academy of Social Sciences, distinguished professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and one of the judges, said: “The marketing and communications team at Nottingham has demonstrated [itself] this past year to be highly innovative, collaborative and novel in its approach.” He praised the team for using the full range of social media to reach out to students, as well as for a public relations campaign highlighting the university’s research.

This really is great and highlights the excellent work being done by colleagues in Communications and Marketing. Outstanding indeed!

Universities are “well-managed” shock

Remarkable speech at THE Leadership and Management Awards 2011

The THELMAs ceremony, on 16 June, was remarkable for a number of reasons. Not least the fact that Julian Clary was hosting. But perhaps the most surprising thing was the speech by David Willetts. First, it lasted barely a minute: realising that he was all that lay between the audience and their dinner he kept it extremely brief. Secondly, and even more significantly, he praised universities. He described us in glowing terms. He said we were well-managed. And well led. And that everyone working in universities was doing really rather well and that we were all highly valued.

I must admit to being rather gobsmacked by this. Whilst some might take issue with a possible mismatch between these words and some of the government’s other deeds, to me he sounded sincere. Given that the traditional mantra from Whitehall has been that universities are poorly managed and badly organised this was extremely refreshing.

Thank you Minister.

Nottingham shortlisted in THELMAs 2011

THE Leadership and Management Awards 2011 Shortlist Announced

Times Higher Education has published the shortlist for the 2011 THELMAs

Having sifted through almost 200 entries from 95 different institutions, we can now unveil the shortlist for the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards 2011.

The shortlisted entrants are competing in 16 categories ranging from top library team and best in marketing and communications to the outstanding student services team and those who have delivered the best departmental administration. Other categories cover procurement, research management, university finance and human resources.

Ann Mroz, editor of THE, said: “Our annual awards always serve as a reminder of the extraordinary quality and dedication of those working in our universities and colleges.

“This year is no exception. Our sector, like every other, has already gone through some tough times and is facing more turbulence as the new funding regime beds in. But a glance at the shortlist for our Leadership and Management Awards is enough to instil confidence that we have the right people in place to continue to prosper and deliver the world-class higher education for which the country is rightly renowned.”

All very nice. But the best bit is that the University of Nottingham has six nominations. It really is extremely impressive and reflects fantastically well on the calibre, commitment and quality of delivery of our professional services staff. We may not win them all; we may not win any, but it’s still a really good achievement. Thank you THE!

“Top scholars should lead research universities”

Top scholars should lead research universities:

Review of fascinating new work in University World News.

Research universities should be led by brilliant scholars and not merely talented managers, says Warwick University fellow Amanda Goodall. It is not sufficient for leaders to have management skills alone, Goodall states in a new book. In Socrates in the Boardroom: why research universities should be led by top scholars, Goodall challenges the orthodoxy of “managerialism” which began in the Thatcher era and continued during the Blair decade. Using a mix of empirical research of 100 universities and interviews with 26 of their leaders in the UK and the US, she concludes that institutions led by highly regarded academics perform better.

Goodall gives four reasons why leaders should be able scholars. They are more credible to academic colleagues and appear more legitimate which, in turn, extends a leader’s power and influence. A top scholar provides a leader with a deep understanding and expert knowledge about the core business of universities which informs decision-making and strategic priorities. The leader sets the quality threshold: “The standard bearer has first set the standard that is to be enforced.” Finally, she says a leader who is a researcher sends a signal to the faculty that he or she shares their scholarly values, and that research success is important to the institution. It also transmits an external signal to potential job candidates, donors, alumni and students.

Some choice quotations here too:

When Goodall asked Patrick Harker, University of Delaware President, if non-academics could lead research universities, he replied: “To be the leader of a jazz group you have to be able to play. That is true of higher education as well. You might not be in the classroom or laboratory now but it helps if you have been there.”

One UK vice-chancellor told her: “A successful international businessman should be appointed as CEO into an international business. An editor of the Financial Times will have been a competent journalist. A vice-chancellor of a university must have been an academic to understand the culture. Universities are profoundly intellectual and can only be led by an academic.”

Have bought a copy now and look forward to reading it!