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Appointing Pro Vice Chancellors in Pre-1992 Universities: Different Process, Same Results? Conference Presentation

Shepherd, Sue (2012) Appointing Pro Vice Chancellors in Pre-1992 Universities: Different Process, Same Results? Conference Presentation. In: Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Newer Researchers Conference, 11 December 2012, Celic Manor Resort, Newport. (Unpublished) (KAR id:37638)

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This paper will report on preliminary findings from an ongoing empirical doctoral study examining the implications of recent change to the way Pro Vice Chancellors (PVCs) are appointed. As key members of the university top team, PVCs perform a distinctive and vital role as facilitators of the Vice Chancellor’s vision and as catalysts for action (Smith, Adams & Mount 2007). Attracting the best people to these jobs is fundamental to an institution’s effectiveness. Nevertheless, the recruitment and selection of top team members remains a relatively under-researched and under-theorised area of enquiry (Kennie & Woodfield 2008) that warrants further investigation, not least because of an enduring public perception of “leadership deficit” in HE (Watson 2008).

Earlier research by the author has established that many pre-1992 universities are moving away from the traditional internal, fixed-term secondment model of PVC appointment to one of external advertisement, often utilising the services of recruitment consultants (Shepherd 2011 unpublished). This paper presents findings from a census of PVCs in pre-1992 universities designed to examine the impact of this changed practice on the profile of current post holders. Are they now a more diverse group than hitherto in terms of gender, ethnicity and professional background?

Emanating from a practitioner perspective, this study reflects my belief that the role of HE researchers is to undertake work that has ‘real world,’ as well as theoretical, significance. Accordingly, the paper will discuss the practical and policy implications of these findings for the career progression and ambitions of aspiring PVCs and, more broadly, for leadership capacity building in the sector. At a theoretical level, it will consider whether recent developments in PVC appointments can be seen as evidence of managerialism, taken to mean a set of beliefs as well as management practice (Pollitt 1990). Participant feedback will be invited on the significance of findings to date and their role in shaping the future direction of the research.

Kennie, T. and Woodfield, S. (2008). The Composition, Challenges and Changes in the Top Team Structures of UK Higher Education Institutions. London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Pollitt, C. (1990). Managerialism and the Public Services: The Anglo-American Experience. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Shepherd, S. (2011 unpublished). Change and Continuity in the Appointment of Second Tier University Managers. Canterbury: University of Kent.

Smith, D., Adams, J. and Mount, D. (2007). UK Universities and Executive Officers: the Changing Role of Pro-Vice-Chancellors. London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Watson, D. (2008). Hunting the Headhunters. Engage, 10-11.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Higher education management; managerialism; selection and recruitment; Pro Vice Chancellor
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: Sue Shepherd
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2013 12:16 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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