A strategic approach to change for university leaders

13 December 2018

During the course of this year EUA has been focusing on the capacity of university leaders to initiate and carry out strategic transformation programmes in a series of activities.

Indeed, many universities across Europe are developing such programmes, that either seek a step change in institutional efficiency, respond to drastic shifts in higher education policy and financing, or improve their academic offer. Key ingredients for successful strategy implementation at universities include effective institutional leadership (governance and management), coherent operating models and structures and institutional culture. Leadership provides direction and defines accountability and responsibility for strategic academic outcomes.

In panel discussions held at EUA’s 4th Funding Forum (Barcelona, 18-19 October 2018), university leaders from different European countries explored the challenges they are facing in a context marked by growing uncertainties, and how they practically address those in order to steer their institutions in the most efficient possible way. Contributions to EUA’s “Expert Voices” from Petra Wend, Vice-Chancellor of Queen Margaret University (UK) and Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger, Rector of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, illustrate some of these reflections.

Earlier this year, EUA brought together a group of university leaders and senior managers to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day challenges of implementing strategies in complex, often under-funded circumstances. The report “Efficiency, Leadership and Governance: Closing the gap between strategy and execution”, released in December, aims to summarise these outputs in a coherent and, above all, practical way so that they can be translated into a variety of institutional contexts.

Among the recommendations that these activities generated, the need for greater support to leadership and change management development clearly appears as a priority. At institutional level, this means training and support via mentorship and incentives for leaders and senior managers; at system level, EUA invites sector representatives and funders to consider dedicated capacity-building schemes.

EUA has developed these activities in the framework of the USTREAM project, which is supported by the European Commission via the Erasmus+ Programme.

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