Well done to WONKHE; their 360 perspectives report is a fascinating read. The message that came out loud and clear for me was the need for the sector to urgently refresh its culture of leadership and governance. A need to be much more open, engaged, transparent and inclusive.
My favourite quotes…
“Strategies that do not acknowledge challenges of simply business as usual are unlikely to be perceived as credible”
“The diversity of students is not reflected in the mainstream policy narrative.”
“Change is required, and that nostalgia for a golden age is not an adequate response to the external policy environment.”
“Where lacklustre leadership may be tolerated when funding and students are plentiful, the demands on leaders is to be bold, inspiring and engaging increase in times of organisational challenge.”
“Governors were perceived as lacking relevant experience, constrained by the information presented to them by the university executive and vulnerable to group-think.”
“Nobody believes that a ‘steady as she goes’ or ‘business as usual’ strategy will lead to success in these uncertain times”
“The current model of policy making is much more public, more aggressive and inevitably less nuanced but it opens up a space for deeper and wider engagement in shaping policy among those working at the front line of higher education.”
“There is little confidence that strategies are sufficiently creative or distinctive to drive investment decisions attract disproportional numbers of students and give the institution enough financial headroom to handle Brexit, pensions, Augar or other external factors”
“Leaders need to show empathy and identify with their staff and students to show that changes are not needlessly or simply commercially driven. Hence the male pale and stale change is such a warning sign. In the coming years, all universities will be developing their leadership strategies to build diverse, inclusive and high-performing leadership teams”
“Many governance arrangements were designed for a different age. They have old fashioned and cumbersome processes and rules.”
It feels like the time has come for those of us in leadership and governance roles to think afresh about how we develop institutional strategy and develop an inclusive culture. We don’t need to be heroic leaders; we need to be collegiate leaders.
Susie Hills is Joint CEO at Halpin Partnership, a management consultancy specialising in governance for higher education.