Skip to main content
Group work

Global leadership survey and framework

Advance HE begins sector consultation to develop a global leadership survey and framework.

Working with the sector, Advance HE plans to develop a global survey for leadership in higher education, research institutes and related organisations.

The extraordinary events brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have brought into sharp focus the question ‘what works for leadership in higher education?’

Without reasonable clarity on this it is hard to invest in leaders, support leadership development, and recognise good practice in a consistent and reliable way. It is also difficult for organisations to plan leadership structures and capacity, and to grow the talent for tomorrow.

The project will generate a unique evidence base for leadership in higher education, highlight contextual variations across the sector and around the world and explore the impact of leadership development. It will also inform the development of a sector-led global leadership framework for enhancement and recognition.

As the first step, Advance HE has commissioned a scoping study that will be undertaken by a research team led by the University of Bristol and involving colleagues from the University of the West of England and Swansea University. This research study consisting of a literature review and a series of ten roundtable discussions will inform the survey design.

Buff line
Alison Johns

It is no exaggeration to say that the future success of higher education in every country around the world will depend on leadership. This has been powerfully illustrated by the role of leadership in the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We must learn from this and also it is very timely, when reflecting on that learning to define the leadership needed for the HE of the future.

The vision for this project, which is a key part of Advance HE’s overall strategy, is to develop a global framework for leadership in higher education and related organisations. To shape and inform this we are also going to launch a large-scale annual leadership survey. This whole process should be one of the largest collective conversations about leadership in higher education ever undertaken, an opportunity which we all can embrace, hence our invitation to you to be part of this work.

Alison Johns
Chief Executive,
Advance HE

Buff line

Objectives of the project

The broad objectives of the Advance HE Leadership Survey are to:

  • Start to generate a unique evidence base for leadership in HE
  • Reveal how staff in HE conceive of leadership
  • Help to articulate the values, behaviours and constructs that contribute to effective leadership (including through different roles and levels) 
  • Highlight contextual variations across the sector and around the world
  • Contrast the views of those leading and those being led
  • Explore the impact of leadership development
  • Promote the importance of the reflective leadership practitioner
  • Generate clear, reliable, and objective data that can inform the development and operation of a leadership framework
  • Assist organisations in designing, developing, and nurturing their leadership capacity.
Professor Richard Watermeyer

In undertaking this study we assume as a research team a significant duty of care in ensuring that all members of our higher education community are given equal license to lead discussion in terms of what is meant, practised and received as leadership. Our methodology which consists, beyond a literature review, of round table events with discussants from across the sector and professional hierarchies is thus intended to provide a holistic and inclusive forum for critical deliberation. This conversation on higher education leadership will thus emphatically, be led by you.

Professor Richard Watermeyer
Professor of Higher Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Higher Education Transformations (CHET),
University of Bristol

Buff line

Scoping study roundtables

As the main basis of enquiry, and to provide deeper insight, a series of ten roundtables will be convened with representatives from the sector to discuss the scope of the proposed survey and the focus areas that will shape its content.

We are seeking expressions of interest to join the roundtables and encourage colleagues to nominate themselves for the most appropriate session listed below. Spaces are very limited, so to ensure appropriate representation and inclusion the diversity of the groups will be carefully considered by the research team, and you will be contacted to confirm whether or not you have been selected. Please hold the date and time for your roundtable of interest in your diary until you hear from us.

The data provided in your expression of interest will be available to the Advance HE project team and the research team for selection purposes.

Outputs from the scoping study

The specific outputs from the scoping study led by the research team will be as follows:

  • A series of one or more dissemination and feedback events in early 2022,
  • A summary report for Advance HE members and the wider HE community based on all of the information and evidence gathered,
  • An outline design to inform the development of a global survey for leadership in higher education, research institutes and related organisations. The survey itself will be finalised and launched in 2022.

The roundtables - express your interest

Academic deans and heads of departments

Thursday 7 October 2021, 15.00 - 17.00 (BST)

Expression of interest deadline:
Thursday 23 September 2021, 18:00 (BST)

More information>

Express your interest

Staff and organisational development professionals

Wednesday 13 October 2021, 08.00 - 10.00 (BST)

Expression of interest deadline:
Wednesday 29 September 2021, 18:00 (BST)

More information>

Express your interest

Professional service leaders

Thursday 14 October 2021, 14.00 - 16.00 (BST)

Expression of interest deadline:
Thursday 30 September 2021, 18:00 (BST)

More information>

Express your interest

Early career academics

Thursday 21 October 2021, 09.00 - 11.00 (BST)

Expression of interest deadline:
Thursday 7 October 2021, 18:00 (BST)

More information>

Express your interest

Senior executive group (one)

Thursday 21 October 2021, 15.00 - 17.00 (BST)

Expression of interest deadline:
Thursday 7 October 2021, 18:00 (BST)

More information>

Express your interest

Professional representative and funding bodies

Wednesday 17 November 2021, 10.00 - 12.00 (GMT)

Expression of interest deadline:
Wednesday 3 November 2021, 18:00 (GMT)

More information>

Express your interest

The professoriate

Tuesday 23 November 2021, 12.00 - 14.00 (GMT)

Expression of interest deadline:
Tuesday 9 November 2021, 18:00 (GMT)

More information>

Express your interest

Professional service first-line managers

Tuesday 23 November 2021, 15.00 - 17.00 (GMT)

Expression of interest deadline:
Tuesday 9 November 2021, 18:00 (GMT)

More information>

Express your interest

Trade unions and HE related support organisations

Tuesday 30 November 2021, 09.00 - 11.00 (GMT)

Expression of interest deadline:
Tuesday 16 November 2021, 18:00 (GMT)

More information>

Express your interest

Senior executive group (two)

Thursday 2 December 2021, 07.00 - 09.00 (GMT)

Expression of interest deadline:
Thursday 18 November 2021, 18:00 (GMT)

More information>

Express your interest
Buff line

Research team

Professor Richard Watermeyer

Professor of Higher Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Higher Education Transformations (CHET), University of Bristol

Richard Watermeyer is Professor of Higher Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Higher Education Transformations (CHET) in the School of Education at the University of Bristol https://www.bristol.ac.uk/education/research/centres-networks/chet/. He is by training and orientation, a sociologist of higher education with expertise related to academic praxis; institutional and research governance; scientific accountability and engagement; and higher education policy reform. He has held previous academic appointments at the universities of Bath, Warwick, Surrey and Cardiff; in addition to having been seconded into government and experience of establishing and directing a university spin-out. His recent research has focused on the organisational and health and wellbeing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on university communities, for instance: https://wun.ac.uk/wun/research/view/watermeyer-covid19-survey/. He is also leading research within an international programme exploring the future of education and work in the context of global digitalisation: https://digitalfuturesofwork.com. His recent books include: Competitive Accountability in Academic Life: https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/gbp/competitive-accountability-in-academic-life-9781788976121.html and The Impact Agenda: https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/the-impact-agenda.

Read more
Professor Richard Watermeyer

Professor Richard Bolden

Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, University of the West of England

Richard Bolden is Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Bristol Leadership and Change Centre at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England (UWE). His research explores the interface between individual and collective approaches to leadership and leadership development in sectors including higher education, health and social care and public services.

He has led projects funded by the NHS Leadership Academy and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (now Advance HE), amongst others, and has published widely on topics including distributed, shared and systems leadership; leadership paradoxes and complexity; cross-cultural leadership; and leadership and change. At UWE he leads modules on leadership, complexity and change for the EMBA and Advanced Clinical Practitioner degree apprenticeship programme and contributes to a range of other undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience programmes.

Read more
Professor Richard Bolden

Professor Bruce Macfarlane

Dean, University of Hong Kong

Bruce Macfarlane is Dean designate of the Faculty of Education and Human Development and Professor of Educational Leadership and Equity at the Education University of Hong Kong. He has previously held chairs at universities in the UK and Hong Kong, is a former Head of the School of Education at the University of Bristol, UK and is currently guest professor at the University of Boras in Sweden. He has also held visiting professorial positions in Japan, South Africa and Australia.

Through his research and scholarship, Bruce has developed conceptual frameworks for interpreting academic practice, ethics and leadership. His major works include Teaching with Integrity (2004), The Academic Citizen (2007), Researching with Integrity (2009), Intellectual Leadership in Higher Education (2012) and Freedom to Learn (2016). He is currently writing a new book for Routledge about the freedom to teach in higher education.

Read more
Professor Bruce Macfarlane

Dr Cathryn Knight

Lecturer, Swansea University

Cathryn Knight is a Lecturer in Education based in the School of Education at Swansea University, having previous completed her ESRC-funded PhD at Cardiff University. Knight has extensive expertise in qualitative and quantitative research design and analysis and is currently involved in a range of national (e.g. Welsh Government) and international (e.g. ERASMUS+) funded research projects.

She has advanced quantitative research experience developed through being awarded the Advanced Quantitative Methods Stipend from the ESRC. Her interest lies in the area of Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and inclusive education, with a particular interest in dyslexia. Further areas of interest include teacher education, the Welsh education system and the use of secondary/administrative data in educational research.

Read more
Dr Cathryn Knight
Doug Parkin roundel

The project lead within Advance HE is Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management.  

In a similar way to learning and teaching, the complexity of leadership in higher education cannot be captured as a fixed set of raw competencies. There is much to do with the culture of the organisation, the context of the team, the character of the individual and the challenge of the task, to list just four significant variables, that influence how leadership may operate. Again, in a similar way to teaching, there are also contrasting views on how leadership is defined and interpreted as a practice. Linked to this, universities, colleges, and research institutes as social institutions generate constructs that shape expectations as regards both leaders and leadership. This all points towards a framework that is illustrative rather than definitive, interpretable to context, and developmental.

Doug Parkin
Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management,
Advance HE

Buff line