Handbook outlines keys to academic leadership

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Handbook outlines keys to academic leadership


7 February 2013

It might be compact, but a new little green book has the potential to bring about big changes in the way Australian universities operate.

The A5-sized handbook – which outlines how university leaders can inspire enthusiastic academic teaching and, in turn, boost student learning – will be launched at the University of the Sunshine Coast tomorrow (Friday 8 February) at 11am.

Funded by an Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) grant of $219,000, the “Executive leadership of learning and teaching in higher education” handbook has distilled the key principles and best practices of academic leadership from across the nation.

The 67-page publication is the result of 18 months of work by USC’s Executive Projects Unit director Don Maconachie and co-authors Dr Craig McInnis and Professor Paul Ramsden of consulting company Phillips KPA.

The handbook will be launched at USC’s Chancellery by Griffith University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor, who is the Chair of the OLT’s Leadership for Excellence Standing Committee.

Mr Maconachie said the publication was aimed primarily at deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs) and other executive leaders of universities in Australia and beyond.

It contains five key principles for action, starting with the strategic vision of university leaders and continuing through to inspiring excellence, devolving leadership, rewarding academics and involving students.

“It’s all about acting strategically to improve the student experience by leading academics and programs,” he said. “It is based on the idea that effective academic leadership enhances both teaching and learning.

"Universities aren’t widget factories and academics aren’t motivated by money or status particularly – the things that drive private enterprise. They are motivated by their discipline and seeing it advanced.

“To get academics to realise their full potential, and to get students to do the same, academic leaders need to inspire them by presenting a future that will motivate them.

“If you understand what motivates academics, it’s much easier to lead them. And it’s the same with students. If you want them to really engage with learning, you have to look at what motivates them.”

Mr Maconachie said he had particularly enjoyed worked with Phillips KPA on this project, which was led by Dr McInnes.

“We’ve drawn together a lot of information from literature and experience, which has never been drawn together before in such a succinct way,” he said.

“The handbook is very much a ready reckoner with key information that DVCs and other academic leaders can use as a check and reference for the high-level strategic management of learning and teaching.”

Terry Walsh

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