Organisational hierarchies in English universities : Understanding roles and boundaries

Catterall, Nicholas and Tight, Malcolm (2020) Organisational hierarchies in English universities : Understanding roles and boundaries. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This research seeks to advance understanding of senior roles and the boundaries between them in contemporary English universities. Analysing interviews with senior managers at eight different English universities, the research presents findings in support of the view that managerialism and professionalisation continue to shape senior leadership teams. The ‘roles and boundaries’ in the title of this research are drawn from the descriptions of participants who discuss their roles in terms of portfolio, and the boundaries of where their remit meets that of their colleagues as a process of negotiation in response to circumstances. Grouped under three overarching themes (Sense of place, Drawing authority to lead, and Influencing change), the findings show participants describing strong collegial working at the executive level, blurred boundaries between the roles of senior managers, and an advancement of professionalisation at their institutions through the use of management information and plans to implement management training programmes. The academic mission is shown to be no less important but concerns for long-term sustainability of the organisation are seen to be shaping decisions, and in turn expanding the boundaries of professional managers into areas long seen as the domain of their academic colleagues. In doing so, the boundaries of roles at the senior executive level are reduced, providing a collegial space in which a broader range of voices are heard, but which also move the institution further from any collegial ideal and increasingly to the managerial and hierarchical. The research provides a framework for understanding the primary factors through which participants describe boundaries being expanded, maintained, or constrained, at the executive level. Three elements are identified as important, pushing against each other to shape the institution – Focus of the executive, Resilience of the institutional normative, and Channels to promote change. The research shows that none of these are fixed or dominant and are in a constant state of change, moving boundaries and changing roles and identities over time.

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Thesis (PhD)
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18 Nov 2020 12:49
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:53