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Understanding governance at university: from management to leadership

Inmaculada Martínez-García (Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Cádiz, Cádiz, Spain)
M. Teresa Padilla-Carmona (Department of Research Methods and Diagnosis in Education, Faculty of Education Sciences, University of Seville, Sevilla, Spain)
Enrique Alastor (Department of Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of Jaén, Jaén, Spain)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 12 February 2019

Issue publication date: 18 June 2019




The higher education system must move closer to society and its requirements, and therefore, the process of transformation in the university context brings new challenges. The purpose of this paper is to present research on a case study that examines the perception of the middle managers’ role from their own perspective: how they describe it, the associated tasks, the skills perceived as necessary and what they think about the need to become academic leaders.


The authors have adopted a mixed-method approach. Data were collected through an in-depth interview and an adapted version of the Personal Construct Grid (Kelly, 1955). Two types of analyses have been carried out: statistical analysis and content analysis following a category system. The participants were academics performing a management position selected in accordance with certain criteria relevant for the study.


The research shows how their perception collides with the traditional characteristics of the university, which focus on the managerial and bureaucratic tasks of the middle managers. The study also reveals evidence of the poor visibility of these managers with no place for action due to their lack of power and decision-making opportunities.


The participants claim that it is necessary for people who hold the position to become agents of change by creating a shared identity through teamwork and collaboration. To this end, this paper presents a proposal for the development of a framework for action.



Martínez-García, I., Padilla-Carmona, M.T. and Alastor, E. (2019), "Understanding governance at university: from management to leadership", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 466-480.



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