Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Are Overseas Campus Leaders out of Their Depth?

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Are Overseas Campus Leaders out of Their Depth?

Article excerpt

Study finds scant sympathy at home for colleagues tackling challenges abroad. Chris Havergal writes

Leaders of UK universities' international branch campuses often have little managerial experience and rarely receive enough support from home institutions, a study has found.

Nigel Healey, pro vice-chancellor (international) at Nottingham Trent University, says that, given the "inherent riskiness of establishing and running" an overseas outpost, it might be expected that institutions would "second their most seasoned managers" to become provosts.

But in a series of interviews with branch campus managers, he found that the top job had often gone to an academic with limited leadership experience. Serving deans and pro vice-chancellors, Professor Healey was told, regarded such international roles as "career suicide".

Writing in the Journal of Studies in International Education, Professor Healey says this state of affairs is cause for concern, since his interviewees - who had worked on nine separate campuses in China, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi - confirmed that they had a wide variety of difficult tasks to grapple with.

These included the challenge of working under strict government control, and with local regulatory bodies, that may variously require the curriculum to be exactly the same as at the home university or to include content such as China's mandatory "patriotic education" courses.

Managing relationships with local joint venture partners was cited as a difficulty, especially with private-sector partners, since provosts rarely had commercial experience.

Interviewees said they had to deal with "friction" and allegations of racism over disparities between the typically generous salaries and benefits enjoyed by academics seconded from the home campus and less generous terms for local staff.

Despite these significant challenges, interviewees said that they received limited support from their parent universities, with Professor Healey characterising such relationships as "ranging from ignorance and indifference at one extreme to outright hostility at the other". …

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