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Neglected on the front line: Tensions and challenges for the first-line manager-academic role in UK business schools

Ceridwyn Bessant (Faculty of Business and Law, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK AND Teeside University Business School, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)
Sharon Mavin (Roehampton Business School, University of Roehampton, London, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 8 August 2016



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the first-line manager-academic (FLMA) role against a guiding hypothesis that “The first-line manager-academic role is not clearly defined or understood; there is great variety of practice and of recognition of the role across the business school sector”.


A descriptive, deductive approach through three linked (internet) surveys of deans of UK business schools, FLMAs in UK business schools and UK university human resource directors.


The FLMA role in UK business schools is important to organizational effectiveness, personal development and career progression yet is poorly defined and supported, inconsistently enacted and perceived. FLMAs struggle to balance academic and management demands, with line management a particular issue and HR support and development systems are inadequate. Differences between chartered “old” and statutory “new” UK universities provide an additional layer of complexity.

Research limitations/implications

FLMA roles need to be better defined and FLMAs better supported to ensure that FLMAs are effective in role contributing to organizational performance and personal development.

Practical implications

The paper throws light on a neglected aspect of management in UK business schools that has potential value for university HR directors, university managers and business school deans.


First empirical study into the role of the first-line manager academic in UK business schools.



Bessant, C. and Mavin, S. (2016), "Neglected on the front line: Tensions and challenges for the first-line manager-academic role in UK business schools", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 35 No. 7, pp. 916-929.



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