A study of the roles of academic middle managers of college-based higher education and the factors that influence their role enactment

Ecoeur, Jacqueline (2020). A study of the roles of academic middle managers of college-based higher education and the factors that influence their role enactment. University of Birmingham. Ed.D.

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College-based higher education (CHE) is a sector within further education (FE). The FE environment is in a constant state of policy and priority change, coupled with substantial reforms and expansion for the inclusion of HE provision in the FE setting. In this demanding and challenging environment, academic middle managers in FE colleges lead diverse multi-disciplinary teams that frequently comprise CHE teachers and FE teachers from different vocational backgrounds. Research into the CHE context recognises its uniqueness and its contribution to widening participation in HE for under-represented, non-traditional students. However, research into the leadership of CHE teaching teams is limited and management of CHE is not a significant feature of middle management career development programmes. The role is complex and the diversity of teaching teams, creates tensions and challenges. For example, for CHE teachers, the expectation is that professional learning takes the form of scholarship, however in FE colleges, scholarship is not such a high priority. In addition, academic middle managers have an important role in the development of expansive learning environments where teachers can continue their professional learning. However, many of the academic middle managers lack a background both in teaching at HE level and personal scholarship. In addition, CHE is often overshadowed by their FE provision.
Based on multiple case study of five FE colleges in England, this thesis produces a detailed typology of academic middle managers’ roles using data collected across their role set (senior managers, middle managers and teachers) by the use of semi-structured interviews and a survey supported by relevant documents produced by each college. Theories drawn from literature of organisational role theory, professional learning and leadership, particularly leadership for learning, are important in gaining insight into how middle managers approach their roles and how different factors shape their approach to working with their teams.
The thesis presents findings in two key areas. First, middle managers have both leadership and management roles which intersect and influence each other to shape the way that managers work with their teams. Second, two sets of factors impact on the decisions middle managers make in relation to their behaviours. The first set is made up of environmental factors such as national policy, college and HE cultures and the people involved. The second set comprises personal factors; values and beliefs; identities; experience and knowledge; and skills and qualities which guide how managers interpret their environment, develop collaborative cultures and promote an expansive learning environment for CHE teachers.
This thesis presents a rich, theoretically and empirically-grounded picture of these factors across the five case study colleges. The thesis highlights the importance of leadership by middle managers and advances understanding of the unique demands of the context and challenges of making an expansive learning environment for CHE teachers to participate in scholarship. This insight can inform policy makers who construct professional standards and the content of development and professional learning for academic middle managers in CHE. The study also emphasises the need for further research into the impact different vocational cultures can have on leadership approaches and the identity of middle managers in CHE, along with how their values and beliefs change over time.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ed.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ed.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11033


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