Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are often questioned for their role and contribution to societal development. According to historical tradition, HEIs are considered as the pool to train and provide intellectual leaders, who are capable of innovating and driving the evolution of society. The abilities that these leaders are required to have, often relate to academic intelligence and performance.
However, situation evolves. In the current turbulent times, people are starting to realise that having leaders or managers in HEIs who are only equipped with academic intelligence may not be enough. For instance, to effectively respond to issues, such as the severe competition for students and funds, the trend of internationalisation, as well as cross-boarder research partnerships, HEIs need leaders and senior managers who are capable of leading and executing the vision and strategy for the institution, but who also have the ability to implement changes and get things done. Since most of the leaders and senior managers in HEIs are not educated with professional leadership and management backgrounds, the need to improve skills in these fields has become difficult to ignore.
Encountered difficulties & the need to change
In the US for example, there are more than 150 graduate programmes in higher education, most of which are professional training programmes. There is also a growing number of executive master and PhD management training programmes for higher education managers (Maassen & Pausits 2010). Nevertheless, this is not happening in Europe. Attempts to set up professional leadership and/or management trainings for HEIs leaders and managers are well accepted but initiatives have not been successfully implemented until now.
In 2009-2010, the Commission funded MODERN project (European Platform for Higher Education Modernisation) conducted a needs assessment survey on higher education leadership and management development. The survey generated some interesting points for discussion on explaining why actions to improve competences and skills for HEIs leaders and managers have not been successful. It is shown in the survey report that the interest and motivation to receive such trainings are rather low at the individual level and the main reason for this is the lack of institutional support.
According to the survey report, very few respondents (10 – 15%) agree with the idea that institutional staff should be following management training and degree courses in their personal time. Respondents also indicate that institutions do not offer financial support for this kind of training. Therefore, taking training to improve leadership and/or management skills is inevitably considered as a heavy personal investment. Certainly, there is a call to allocate more financial resources to relevant trainings, but taking into account the current turbulent financial situation, training budgets are normally limited or are the first to be reduced to save costs at the institutional level.
How do you solve the problem of the lack of institutional support for leaders and managers in HEIs across Europe? At the EU level, the Commission does offer certain financial resources and networking opportunities in the field. Nevertheless, more needs to be done.
For instance, the Commission funded MODERN project (in which EFMD is among the 10 core partners) is one of the initiatives to respond to this urgent request of improvement. This 3-year project aims to provide a structured answer to the fragmentation in the supply of management support to HEIs, their leaders and managers. Besides providing executive reports on topics such as knowledge exchanges, internationalisation, university engagement in regional innovation, governance as well as HEI leadership and management training in Europe, the project also successfully establishes a platform for information and experience exchange for HEIs leaders and managers.
Leaders and managers in HEIs are a unique group. They are required to have leadership & management skills as well as strong academic credentials. To improve Europe’s competitiveness in terms of higher education, the leadership of HEIs needs to be supported and developed. Taking into account the current budget issue at the individual and institutional level, more resources should be invested at the European level in this field. Compared to the US, Europe is lagging behind and it should take concrete actions that raise the quality of leadership across HEIs in Europe.
To view further information on the MODERN project, please visit EFMD website at: www.efmd.org >>EU Corporation >> Current Project >> MODERN
Or visit the project website at: www.highereducationmanagement.eu
EFMD is a leading international network of business schools, companies and consultancies (770 members across 82 countries) at the forefront or raising the standards of management education and development globally. EFMD runs the EQUIS & EPAS, accreditation systems and is one of the key reference points for management education worldwide. www.efmd.org