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Small Development Projects 2014

We are delighted to announce that we have awarded ten Small Development Projects for 2014. The competition was particularly strong, with a total of 27 proposals received by the deadline. 

The successful projects are:

Following the Leaders? Twitter networks and higher education leadership
University of Bath
New social media creates both opportunities and challenges for leaders. It offers a direct way to engage with students, staff and the general public and promotes discussion that can lead to innovation. However these communication networks are driven by self-organising behaviour that can be complex, unpredictable and difficult to manage. This project aims to identify, from data obtained from Twitter, sector wide trends, clusters of connectivity and institutional patterns of interaction in order to help leaders understand social media patterns, interpret their institution's place in networks and develop strategies for effective leadership.


Championing experiential leadership development today to inspire innovation tomorrow
University of Bristol
The modern veterinary profession is very team-oriented with colleagues from different backgrounds, all working together to ensure excellence in clinical services, research, industry and teaching. Effective leadership of these multi-disciplinary teams requires competencies beyond technical knowledge. They require self and social awareness, emotional intelligence, effective communication and organisational skills. However leadership training skills and resources are currently lacking amongst UK veterinary educators. This project aims to address the lack of veterinary team leadership capacity. It will enable veterinary higher education professionals to attend leadership training. To consolidate their skills by acting as facilitators for a national veterinary team leadership and professionalism course, that is delivered to veterinary medicine, nursing and bioscience students from across the UK.

Implementing 3-steps beyond the obvious – aligning, supporting and developing talent in HEIs
University of Derby
This project builds on a phase one research project supported by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to establish the feasibility and ecological validity of a new concept, model and associated tools to help organisations engage and align individual’s performance and development to local and institutional objectives.


Promoting organisation citizenship and collegiality: The utility of an online, value-centred training programme for leadership assessment and development
Durham University
With the combination of sector reform and increased competition within higher education, the pressure for leaders to balance demands against the core values has greatly increased. This project looks to address the clearly identified need of cost and time-effective workforce development, with the aim of enabling leaders to take a proactive approach to their own training.


Going off road: Building creative capacity in operational teams
University of Essex
Creativity is a much sought after leadership quality. The ability to generate ideas and to have the confidence to voice ideas is a mind-set associated with many leaders across many different fields. Nurturing that mind-set across teams is a challenge particularly early on in a leadership role. This project aims to recognise and build creative capacity among teams using a CPD model adapted from commercial organisations where ideas and innovation are actively encouraged and the contributions of every team member respected.


Effective academic leadership is a key contributor to attaining academic excellence. Yet most leadership vacancies in academia are filled with scholars who typically haven’t previously acquired the necessary skills to provide effective leadership. To help in addressing these issues, this project seeks to develop a coaching intervention. This intervention will be made available as a smartphone application, which is aimed at supporting academic leaders in their new roles by targeting important leadership skills. 

Leadership development for entrepreneurship education: Building futures
University of Portsmouth
Higher education institutions have been called on to provide an entrepreneurial agenda and create and deliver a curriculum that supports the development of graduates. The interpretation of this agenda requires leadership in all academic disciplines and at all levels. Yet within teaching there has been limited attention given so far to those who are leading and enabling the entrepreneurial curriculum. This project aims to understand the perceived roles, barriers and enablers of curriculum leaders in developing entrepreneurial education and the leadership pre-requisites that can support sustained development of these staff to reach their vision of the future.


This project, straddling the key themes of leadership, governance and management, is designed to encourage development to enhance leadership in UK higher education institutions through an innovative and interactive approach. It sets out to gather various stories and perspectives of both governors and executives to establish a body of data to provide a constantly growing picture of this complex relationship. To enable an awareness-raising opportunity through performance events that will invite reflexivity around this topic. 

More than lucky? Exploring self-leadership in the development and articulation of research independence
University of Sheffield
Securing a research fellowship award is a highly competitive process where applicants must demonstrate potential to become a future research leader. A portion of fellowship success is often attributed to luck, both by award holders themselves and by aspiring fellows. This project seeks to provoke critical reflection in current research fellows and to overlap this with the thoughts of researcher developers in order to evidence a challenge to the definition of becoming ‘independent’ and to theorise that success in research leadership is dependent on becoming more, not less, connected. 


Many issues in UK universities have all the hallmarks of being wicked problems. They are complex, hard to solve issues that stakeholders perceive in very different ways. A new wicked problem for universities, which has emerged over the last few years, is ‘what to do about improving research database management (RDM)’. This project aims to bring together a network of those involved in tackling the wicked RDM problem in different institutions and through a reflective and participative process, construct an open educational resource about leadership in wicked problem contexts.

Understanding leadership from a disability perspective
University of Wolverhampton
Any activity that affects disabled people, should involve disabled people in leadership roles. Yet, the number of disabled professionals in employment is small and the number of those occupying leadership positions remains even smaller. There have been few programmes in the UK to develop disabled staff. There is a need to re-conceptualise leadership and engage disabled individuals in the development of policy and practice in this area. This project aims to examine leadership from a disability perspective in one university using online survey and focus groups hoping to build leadership capacity among this under-represented group.

For more information contact:

Small Development Projects Team

Lesly Huxley

Dr Lesly Huxley

Director, Membership and Organisational Development

M: 07977 457 949

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Frances Dee

Dr Frances Dee

Innovation Coordination Manager

T: 020 3468 4829

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Michael Webber

Michael Webber

Finance Manager

T: 020 3468 4822

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Recent SDPs & Research

  1. Big data – disruptive, distracting or adding value?

    Developing leaders; Culture, change and organisational development; Evolving organisational forms; HE context and landscape [Research]

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        1. Big data – disruptive, distracting or adding value?
        2. Encouraging disabled leaders in higher education: recognising hidden talents
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      4. 2016 Research
        1. Onwards and Upwards? Tracking women's work experiences in higher education summary
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        3. The purpose of professors: professionalism, pressures and performance
        4. Leading Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education: Summary
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        1. In the wings and backstage: exploring the micropolitics of leadership in higher education
        2. Developing and Sustaining Shared Leadership in Higher Education
        3. How can we make not break black and minority ethnic leaders in higher education?
        4. Religion in Britain: Challenges to Higher Education
        5. The Case for Growing STEMM Research Capacity in Wales
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        5. The experience of BME academics in higher education: aspirations in the face of inequality
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        21. A Complexity Approach to Leadership Development: Developing Practical Judgement
        22. Performance Management in UK Higher Education Institutions: The need for a hybrid approach
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        1. Humanities Research Leadership in Europe
        2. Credit Risk? Reviving credit accumulation and transfer in UK higher education
        3. What do we know about: Collaborations and Partnerships in Higher Education
        4. Leadership of Practice Disciplines in Universities: The case of nurses and teachers
        5. Devolution and Higher Education: What next?
        6. Leadership for a better student experience: What do senior executives need to know?
        7. Horizon Scanning: what will higher education look like in 2020
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        14. Losing our Chains?
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        1. What do we know about leadership in higher education?
        2. Leadership development within the UK higher education: its impact on organisational performance, and the role of evaluation
        3. The Future of English Higher Education: two scenarios on the changing landscape
        4. Disruptive Innovation and the higher education ecosystem post-2012
        5. Academic Leadership: Changing Conceptions, Identities and Experiences in UK Higher Education
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        11. Collaborations and Mergers in HE: Lessons Learned and Future Prospects
      9. 2011 Research
        1. Developing the whole student: leading higher education initiatives that integrate mind and heart
        2. A Review of Higher Education Collaborations Across Wales
        3. Higher Education Collaborations: Implications for Leadership, Management and Governance
        4. Enabling equality: furthering disability equality for staff in higher education
        5. A guide to offshore staffing strategies for UK universities
        6. Leadership and Management of International Partnerships
        7. A Framework for Identifying Governing Body Effectiveness in Higher Education
      10. 2010 Research
        1. Higher Education Futures: Key Themes and Implications for Leadership and Management
        2. Understanding Career Motivation in Higher Education, Analysis of Agregated Results from 2009 Benchmarking Study
        3. Conversations and Collaborations: The Leadership of Collaborative Projects between Higher Education and the Arts and Cultural Sector
        4. A Guide to Scenario Planning in Higher Education
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        2. Diversity In Higher Education: Leadership Responsibilities and Challenges
        3. Mapping Leadership Development in Higher Education: A Global Study
        4. Departmental Leadership of Teaching in Research-Intensive Environments
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        8. Governing bodies, equality and diversity A handbook for governors of higher education institutions
        9. What is an Effective and High Performing Governing Body in UK Higher Education?
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        3. The Characteristics, Roles and Selection of Vice-Chancellors
        4. Developing Collective Leadership in Higher Education
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