Leading strategic planning in Australian Universities

Therese Howes

EdD thesis, conferred 2015

Sharrock proposes that the introduction of strategic management in Australian universities can be categorised into two opposed positions: a sympathetic structural view and an unsympathetic ideological view (2012). The findings of this qualitative study suggests that Sharrock’s proposition can also be applied to the introduction of strategic planning in Australian universities. However, while the study data clearly reveals two opposed positions, there is also a common critical thread in the reflections that suggests a more complex ideological response to the introduction of strategic planning in Australian universities.

This study collected in-depth interviews with nine purposively selected participants, including three current and former vice-chancellors, a deputy vice-chancellor, a dean and four members of the professoriate. The data was condensed and is presented as first-person case studies in the thesis (Seidman, 2006). The findings demonstrate that executive members of staff are likely to assume a sympathetic structural view of strategic planning, while academics not actively engaged in strategic planning at an executive level, may assume a more unsympathetic ideological view. The participants explain how and why strategic planning was introduced to Australian universities, what forms of leadership were most effective in driving this change and the organisational impact this had on their employer universities.

Reflecting on how their approach to leading strategic planning may have changed throughout their careers, the participants offer recommendations to the next generation of leaders who will be tasked to lead strategic planning in Australian universities. An analysis of the data proposes various elements that should be reflected in an ‘effective’ Strategic Plan and presents a conceptual framework of leading strategic planning in Australian universities.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Deb Hayes