Dr Madeleine Green
International Association of Universities, and NAFSA (the Association of International Educators), USA
Research-PULSAR Series, March 2014
Madeleine Green’s study considers registrars and senior administrative officers as change leaders in Southern African universities. Her study explores the experiences and lessons learned by a sub-group of participants in the PULSAR programme from leading projects of strategic significance to their universities chosen by them as part of the PULSAR Programme.
Green conducted six interviews with programme participants selected to represent a range of different types of projects and countries. Most projects were closely aligned with the institution’s strategic plan and/or a national policy and were aligned with the larger African agenda of building institutional capacity with respect to infrastructure, human resources, and accountability - the areas of responsibility of registrars and senior administrative officers. The projects were to a great extent focused on administrative issues and involved administrative staff in the project formulation and implementation. Several projects however, had a wider group of stakeholders either because their support was needed or would be affected by the project when implemented. The interviewees were very aware of the need to involve stakeholders in the appropriate way.
Green analyses the projects and their implementation using a typology of change that combines two basic elements - depth and pervasiveness - in different ways to produce a matrix that outlines four types of institutional change: adjustment, isolated change, pervasive change, and transformational change. The primary factors affecting leadership may be found not in the leaders themselves, but rather in the constraints that exist in the environment within which administrators function. Green’s analysis takes into account the national context and institutional culture within which a project is to be implemented, as well as the choice and timing of a project, the need to create allies and obtain buy-in and considers how to overcome obstacles and measure progress.
Green’s findings confirm that the leadership strategies used by the interviewees recognises the intensely human nature of the change process and the need to engage people in meaningful ways in crafting their futures and the future of the institution. The dynamic external environment combined with challenges of rapid expansion and inadequate resources, raise the stakes for African higher education leaders and exert tremendous pressure on them. The leadership challenges are even more fierce for registrars and senior leaders in Southern Africa, who must ensure that their institutions have sound fiscal and administrative foundations and at the same that they are looking ahead, anticipating needs, and mobilising others to meet these challenges.
PULSAR Project Director