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Autonomous leadership and a centralised school system: An odd couple? Empirical insights from Cyprus

Stefan Brauckmann (Department of Educational Governance, German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), Berlin, Germany)
Alexandra Schwarz (Schumpeter School of Business and Economics, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




Although policy makers strengthen the necessity of “deregulation”, discussions about deregulation vs regulation in Europe still seem to be characterized by a lack of sophistication and require a more differentiated picture of specific forms of deregulation. As a consequence, the analysis of new educational governance approaches should consider the local actor's interpretation of new roles and new responsibilities. Relating actions and reactions of school leaders to their formal environment should lead to more contextual patterns of responsiveness. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The authors investigate, based on a survey among Cypriot school leaders, whether school autonomy needs deregulation, or regulation towards autonomy, respectively. At the time of research the school system of Cyprus could be characterized as a “centralized” system and hence represented a suitable field of study. Using a factor model followed by a cluster analysis the paper explores the school leaders’ profiles of operative and perceived autonomy in different fields of governance issues and identify different types of leadership.


The authors find that the autonomy school leaders experience is not necessarily related to a “defined” degree of autonomy which is prescribed by educational law and driven by concepts of new public management. Their “perceived” autonomy is also due to factors which can be located at a rather individual level.


The findings provide insight into principals’ motives to adopt certain styles of leading schools, quite independently from new measures of educational governance. The authors conclude that greater emphasis on systematic support programmes may prepare school principals for gains of autonomy as well as for potential sources of conflict.



Brauckmann, S. and Schwarz, A. (2014), "Autonomous leadership and a centralised school system: An odd couple? Empirical insights from Cyprus", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 823-841.



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