Professor Paul Ramsden, Key Associate
Stimulus Paper, September 2013
Our research forms part of the Leadership Foundation membership benefit. Hard copies of this Stimulus Paper have been distributed to all member institutions and the PDF is available for members to download by clicking the image below.
Across the globe the senior leadership teams of universities are increasing their focus on the quality of the student experience, working to create the conditions to enable students to achieve and thrive. In this helpful digest of the evidence, Paul Ramsden has captured the essential challenges that senior teams need to address in their ambitions to improve that experience.
The focus on the wider elements of the student experience combined with a renewed focus on curriculum logically connects to an emphasis on developing leadership for learning and teaching. We are pleased to see a renewed call for senior executives to recognise the value of teaching, if the student experience is to progress academics need to afford teaching and learning appropriate priority.
We would suggest an even stronger emphasis on creating a strong collaboration between the university, the students’ union and the students. Students are playing an increasingly important leadership role in the development of their university’s strategies and it is important to promote their involvement. Imperial College London has long enjoyed a positive working relationship between the College and students’ union – Imperial College Union. We believe it is our collaboration that underpins and enables us to work effectively towards a better student experience.
Through collaboration and reason, senior executives and students can work together to co create solutions to enhance the student experience.
President, Imperial College Union
Professor Debra Humphris
Pro Rector Education, Imperial College London
This paper addresses a leadership issue that has hitherto received little attention – the knowledge and skills that senior executives, such as deputy vice-chancellors and pro vice-chancellors, require in order to enhance teaching and the student experience in institutions of higher education. These capacities are particularly important in an increasingly competitive market for students. Finding the right balance between setting unambiguous strategic goals and devolving decision-making to academics and students (sometimes known as ‘assertive-participative governance’ is a central challenge for senior executives in this climate. The paper provides a summary of evidence about what makes for a better student experience, including the relations between teaching, assessment and the quality of student learning; the impact of leadership on academics’ teaching; the significance of student engagement and study time in determining student success; the relevance of curriculum issues; the relations between research and teaching; and the importance of recognising teaching performance. Drawing on a series of case studies of successful executive leadership, the paper identifies and illustrates four themes that all senior leaders in higher education should comprehend and reflect upon: developing and articulating a vision for the future of the student experience in an institution (including involving students in quality enhancement); getting the right balance between collegial and managerial imperatives; devolving leadership to those closest to students in order to inspire wide ownership of the vision; and the shrewd use of evidence to develop collective responsibility for improving the student experience.