Developing leadership is key to future, foundation tells Denham

Report says ambitions for sector depend on improving quality of management. Hannah Fearn writes

March 10, 2009

John Denham, the Universities Secretary, will be unable to achieve his ambitions for UK higher education without a radical overhaul of leadership across the sector, according to a report by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education published this week.

According to the foundation, all the reports submitted as part of Mr Denham’s review of the future health of higher education over the next 10 to 15 years highlighted major challenges for leadership that remained largely unaddressed.

Contributors to Mr Denham’s review presented a vision of the future marked by greater competition between countries and institutions, which in turn requires stronger collaborations and new infrastructure within universities, the Leadership Foundation report says. Within institutions, the integration of facilities such as library and IT services and the increased importance of human resources will require a focus on strong leadership across all areas.

“More productive engagement across sectors requires not only specific skills but also opportunities for building relationships and gaining new knowledge and understanding,” the report says. “Human resource management capability in institutions will need to be significantly enhanced to cope with some of the strategic challenges identified in the reports.”

The Leadership Foundation report emphasises that the future of higher education will involve a major cultural change that must be properly led.

Ewart Wooldridge, chief executive of the Leadership Foundation, said: “Our report to John Denham shows how the leadership issue will be crucial to any framework for higher education – and for coping with the major financial and organisational challenges over the next few years. Sound leadership is the glue that will hold it together. We believe that the key issues are developing leadership rather than leaders for our universities; the skills of building even better partnerships across sectors and national boundaries; and a governance system that engages well with the institution.”

Mr Denham will address a debate on the marketisation of higher education hosted by the Leadership Foundation on 18 March in London.

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