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Academics and Power: How a new cadre of career track academic managers are colonising university management

Shepherd, Sue (2017) Academics and Power: How a new cadre of career track academic managers are colonising university management. In: British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) Annual Conference, 7-9 July 2017, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. (Unpublished) (KAR id:62474)

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There is a prevailing academic narrative that asserts how – in response to the need for effective leadership in a globally competitive higher education environment - managerialism has pervaded universities leading to a diminution of academic, in favour of managerial, power. Academic autonomy is said to have declined and the professional status of academics weakened as authority has shifted from academics to managers. This presentation will present evidence from two recent research studies (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Society for Research in Higher Education) that critically examine this narrative and offer a more nuanced view.

Data will be drawn from two main sources: 70 semi-structured interviews with vice chancellors, deputy and pro vice chancellors (PVCs) and other senior university managers and a 2016 census of the entire PVC cohort. These research findings show that, although professional services (i.e. non-academic) managers, particularly those in quality assurance roles, are intruding in what was once exclusively academic territory, they are nevertheless not deemed to have legitimacy to manage academic colleagues and so are excluded from consideration for PVC posts. These continue to be monopolised by academics in a form of social closure.

Moreover, the part-time hybrid academic managers who traditionally filled PVC posts in pre-1992 universities are making way for a new cadre of full-time, often permanent, career track academic managers more akin to those found in post-1992 institutions. This new group of managers is growing in number, their collective remit is expanding, and they are assuming more executive-style line management and budgetary responsibilities, including for professional services areas. They are thus extending their management jurisdiction and it is arguably they, rather than professional services managers, who are colonising university management.

On the basis of this evidence, it is proposed that the real shift in the balance of power has not been from academics to professional services managers, but rather from rank-and-file academics to a new professional elite of career track academic managers. This represents a form of professional stratification within the academy. Conference participants will be invited to give their views on the validity of this proposition from a theoretical and/or professional perspective.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: university management; higher education management; academics; managers; managerialism; pro vice chancellor; power relations; executive team; management; hybrid managers
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
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: Society for Research into Higher Education (
Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Sue Shepherd
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2017 08:14 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 08:13 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Shepherd, Sue:
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