An examination, evaluation and analysis of work‐based learning leadership within a higher education setting

Elda Nikolou‐Walker (School of Education, Queen's University, Belfast, UK)
Hugh Curley (School of Education, Queen's University, Belfast, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Publication date: 18 May 2012



The purpose of this paper is to examine, evaluate and analyse the degree to which effective leadership can contribute to the success of any business including, in this instance, a specific higher educational institution (HEI).


The current challenging economic climate views most leaders within the public and private sectors, as having to manage in an époque of heightened uncertainty. Thus, the majority of businesses today seek ways in which they can work smarter within the perimeters of their valuable, but, nonetheless, limited, resources. The paper argues a successful work‐based learning (WBL) leader can improve the learners’ performances by instilling a degree of purpose and value into the learning process, achieved through mentoring and coaching of students, thus enabling their rapport to identify what is of importance, or value to themselves during their individual period of study.


The HEI examined, with its hierarchical structure and traditional learning programmes, seems appropriate to adapt to the challenges of the external environment whilst appreciating and recognising its internal assets. Within WBL, the leadership role is not “clear‐cut” as its collegial approach enhances the knowledge transfer process as it is at a pace set and agreed to the ability of the WBL students, who adopt responsibility for their own learning. Leadership and teacher development, through the concept of “Distributive Leadership”, can support an environment of “calculated risk”, to advance the HEI's reputation and corporate social responsibilities to its surrounding community.


The paper discusses the concept of leadership and how the WBL approach to learning/teaching, within HEIs, has helped to develop and advance this concept. It illustrates how WBL enhances the performance of an HEI, and the teaching/learning experience, through considering the role of the head teacher, teachers and students. All these elements are discussed against a backdrop of the challenges that an uncertain business environment presents; the main impact being that many HEIs are having to operate like a business and find practical methods to meet these challenges to attract new business and secure its existence.



Nikolou‐Walker, E. and Curley, H. (2012), "An examination, evaluation and analysis of work‐based learning leadership within a higher education setting", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 186-200.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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