National Centre for Entrepreneurship in EducationChange management and entrepreneurial leadership

Change management and entrepreneurial leadership


As the NCEE marks a decade of a flagship programme, it continues to equip university leaders for the future of higher education

In 2019, the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education celebrates 10 years of delivering its entrepreneurial leadership programme. More than 180 higher education leaders have completed the programme, with many now applying their knowledge in vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor roles.

During the past decade, perhaps the only constant in the higher education sector has been change. In October, the NCEE published a survey of more than 50 HE leaders about how they are navigating the sector’s ever-evolving landscape. Eighty per cent were confident that their institution had the ability to adapt, but 90 per cent were concerned about navigating financial uncertainty and 89 per cent about driving internal change. According to Ceri Nursaw, NCEE’s chief executive officer, the most effective way to prepare leaders for future demands is to expose them to real examples of how others are managing those changes. 

“We can all become stuck in our thinking, not challenge it and not look at other approaches,” she says. “By talking with peers, leaders can see what others have done – from major structural changes to more subtle change initiatives.” Through the NCEE programmes, and the resulting professional networks, they can work through those changes with a mix of peers and colleagues from academia and professional services.

In this context, one of the most demanding positions within the sector is head of school or department. In April, the NCEE introduced Entrepreneurial Heads, a programme aimed at introducing people in these roles to concepts such as change management and entrepreneurial leadership. “This can be a challenging role because they’re getting strategy pushed down on them from above, while issues are being pushed up from their departmental colleagues,” says Nursaw. “Yet heads of department can be the holders of culture in an institution.” 

The complexity and speed of change is also putting pressure on leaders. Of the survey respondents, 62 per cent cited managing internal change as a priority. Universities are expected to diversify income streams, meet rising student expectations and react to policy changes – as well as deliver rich learning experiences. Nursaw adds: “Not only do leaders have to innovate, but they must also prepare students for a world of work where they will need to adapt and be flexible.” 

With so many conflicting demands, a common goal is to simplify leaders’ objectives. “They want to cut through the diversions and concentrate on a simple message,” says Nursaw. As the NCEE enters its next decade, that will be an important challenge.

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