In a fascinating University World News article, Amanda Goodall looks at what makes a good university leader. She concludes that academics are the best people for the job, not managers who have been parachuted in from outside. Why is this? (Read the whole article here)
Goodall says that it’s silly to prioritise management techniques in leaders in a sector where every other member of staff is judged on their specialist subject knowledge. For a university leader to be respected he or she must also have that subject knowledge. However, her advice does not reflect current practise. UK universities hired 33% more managers and only 10% more academics between 2003-2009.
Academics make good managers, Goodall argues, because their experience in the university sector prepares them for leadership in that sector. Some of the most improved universities such as Queen Mary, University of London, are led by academic experts. Academics have the understanding that will encourage other scholars to achieve excellence. Good managers only beget more managerial processes; they find it difficult to motivate subject experts.
While I think Goodall is right, this system depends on enough of the best academics wanting to move into managerial roles. And perhaps it is a reluctance in this area that forces many institutions to turn to managers rather than subject experts to fill their senior posts.