EDEV_506 Week 6_1

You are right: there is deep complexity in these scenarios. I’d like to comment on your enigma over academics leaving after policies were implemented. I suspect that you wrote your question partially tongue-in-cheek; however, there is a serious side to the issue of which I’m sure you are aware. Max Planck’s observed that:

“a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it” (Planck, 1949, cited in Kuhn, 1970).

In other words, the knowledge that “science advances one funeral at a time”, may be the driving force behind the ideological desire to speed up the process of institutional reform by implementing policies that challenge the very basis of the ivory tower, and academic freedom (Morrill, 2007). Policies may deliberately, but surreptitiously, seek to propagate a new paradigm, in this case that of managerialism based on neoliberal values and applied directly to higher education (Bell & Stevenson, 2006; McCaffery, 2010). I chose to style that last sentence in the passive to de-emphasise the notion of the actor, but of course, actors live and breathe behind any policy (Fairclough, 1989).

In this light, a definition of leadership success becomes more apparent. Instead of needing to deal with the “traditionally incoherent normative nature of higher education institutions” (Frølich, Huisman, Slipersæter, Stensaker, & Botas, 2013, p. 82) in which promoting staff engagement is likened to “herding cats” (Marshall, 2007, p. 8), successful leadership may be seen as that which delivers a more manageable institution along Western commercial models. Many have commented on the importance of understanding cultural, structural and historical reasons for the differences between HEIs and the commercial world, but a critical analysis recognises the underpinning question; does it have to be this way? (With a nod to Wolfgang) Machiavellian strategies that focus on the end and ignore the means lead us to question—rightly so—what these ends actually are. In doing so, we may also consider who the actors actually are, not just the so-called stakeholders that may turn out to have very little input into the situation.


Bell, L., & Stevenson, H. (2006). Education Policy: Education Policy Process, Themes and Impact. London and New York: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. Harlow: Longman.

Frølich, N., Huisman, J., Slipersæter, S., Stensaker, B., & Botas, P. C. P. (2013). A reinterpretation of institutional transformations in European higher education: Strategising pluralistic organisations in multiplex environments. Higher Education, 65, 79–93. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9582-8

Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. American Journal of Physics (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. http://doi.org/10.1119/1.1969660

Marshall, S. (2007). Leading and mangaging strategic change. In S. Marshall (Ed.), Leadership of Change in Higher Education: What’s new?(pp. 1–16). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

McCaffery, P. (2010). The Higher Education Manager’s Handbook: Effective Leadership and Management in Universities and Colleges(2nd ed.). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

Morrill, R. L. (2007). Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC. and the American Council on Education.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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