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Alumni flourish after taking part in Advance HE’s longest running bespoke programme

18 Feb 2020 | Advance HE The Academic Leaders Programme (ALP) is a collaboration between Newcastle and Durham universities and Advance HE. It is our longest running bespoke programme and almost 300 academic leaders have benefitted from attending since 2006.

A collaborative project designed to develop the strategic leadership skills of academic leaders at Newcastle and Durham Universities celebrates reaching its 15th iteration this year.

The Academic Leadership Programme (ALP) is our longest running collaborative project and nearly 300 academics have taken part over the past 14 years. Alumni of the programme have thrived in their roles and in some cases have become Heads of Faculties and Pro-vice Chancellors.

Lynne Howlett, Assistant Director in Leadership Development at Newcastle University said:

“We are proud to celebrate this unique partnership between Newcastle and Durham. For us, it is less about the numbers we’ve had on the programme over the years and more about the positive impact the programme has on individuals and their schools and faculties.”

Delivered jointly to participants at Newcastle and Durham, ALP began in 2006 and aims to give academic leaders the skills and behaviours required to deliver in a rapidly changing higher education sector.

The programme was initially aimed at supporting new and developing Heads of Schools and Departments, but now welcomes Deans, Heads of Research Institutes and Colleges and their deputies. 

Through workshops, action learning, 360-degree feedback and a range of self-awareness tools, participants take time to reflect on their leadership styles and the specific challenges of higher education leadership.

Due to its bespoke nature, the programme has continually evolved in order to meet the changing environment and needs of the participants and their universities.

Each year the programme is reshaped by a steering group comprising of previous years’ participants.

Each cohort works to co-create the programme for the next, feeding back ideas to support the next iteration of the programme. Last year, for example, saw a greater focus on personal and institutional resilience, preparing strategy, delivering change and coaching style conversations.

Sophie Sowerby, Head of Organisation Development at Durham University said:

“The co-creation of the programme has positively impacted upon the learning experience for the delegates who hugely value the opportunity to work with colleagues from Newcastle.  

“ALP has also led to Durham and Newcastle introducing a number of significant leadership development initiatives, for example Women in Academia and Masterclasses, thereby enabling more colleagues to benefit from this collaborative approach.”

Prof John Ramsden, Advance HE Key Associate and Programme Director, believes the partnership between Advance HE and the universities is key to its continuing success.

“One of the most important aspects of the programme’s success is the special tripartite partnership. The steering group is strongly informed by feedback from participants and takes into consideration the current climate in the sector and at the two universities. It meets three times during each cohort to review progress and agree future direction.

“All three parties share a passion for innovation in leadership development, and a commitment to providing an experience that has impact on the ways in which academic leaders deliver results.”

Participants from the 2018-19 programme emphasised the importance of the programme’s lessons when thinking about their own leadership abilities.

“The programme has helped me to think about when my natural tendencies (democratic, consultative, sharing and cynical humour) might not work well. The experience of meeting other people from different bits of the University and Durham was particularly useful.”

“This programme made me realise the importance of some of the very ‘big picture’ aspects (culture, values, purpose etc) and emphasised not to lose sight of these when dealing with all that the role entails.”

The 15th iteration, running until June, will provide management support, training sessions and interactive workshops to participants.


Using our expertise both internally and across our pool of sector expert associates, Advance HE can co-create a programme designed to meet your needs. Find out more about our bespoke in-house programmes.


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