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Shifting boundaries: The academic middle 
manager negotiating the landscape between 
policy and practice 
Ton Kallenberg 
Leiden University - The Netherlands 
Thomas Harboe 
Kopenhagen University - Denmark 
Paper Presentation EAIR 2014 
Higher Education Diversity and Excellence for Society 
Duisburg-Essen, Germany, August 28-30, 2014.
1. Introduction 
2. Position academic middle manager 
3. Changing landscape Higher Education 
4. Management concepts 
5. Discussion: a critical juncture? 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Who we are and what we do 
We are “administrators” working on the cross field between the domains of professionals 
(researchers/teachers) and administrators (management, administration). 
We fulfilled our PhD-research in 2013. 
Now we’re going on with our research on academic middle management in shifting national and 
institutional boundaries. 
Harboe (2013): 11 semi-structured qualitative interviews with Danish heads of study from 5 
out of 8 HE-institutions in Denmark, combined with studies of the literature and relevant 
documents. 
Kallenberg (2013): a written survey among academic middle managers working at 14 Dutch 
universities and 44 universities of applied sciences in The Netherlands. The analysis included 
246 subjects (33,37 %) and adequately represents each HE-institution in The Netherlands. 
Different methods – but the same conclusions! 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Subject: The (academic) 
middle manager 
Academic middle manager (Hellawell & Hancock, 2001; Kallenberg, 2005) = umbrella 
term for the middle manager who: 
...is integrally responsible for program curricula, from strategy - including participation in 
decisions on institutional strategy and responsibility for School/faculty strategy - through 
to educational management - including control of education and research programs and 
student relations within the governing board’s parameters. 
academic manager (Mercer, 2009) 
mid-level academic manager (Inman, 2007; Whitchurch, 2008; Larsen et al, 2009) 
manager academics (Deem & Brehony, 2005) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Subject: The (academic) 
middle manager 
Academic middle managers are functioning on different levels in the HE-organization: 
• academic dean (Wolverton et al 2001, Vieira da Motta & Bolan, 2008) 
• head of department (Smith R., 2003) 
• head of study (Kallenberg 2013, Harboe 2013) 
• programme directors, course coordinators (Ladyshewsky et al., 2007) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The position of the academic middle manager 
“You’re damned if you do and 
you’re damned if you don’t.” 
“You’re in the line of fire whether 
you want it or not” 
(interviews, Kallenberg, 2013) 
“It's really a strange title, Head of 
Study, because you're virtually not 
leading anyone. You do not have 
any formal leadership 
responsibilities. On the contrary, it is 
a very informal leadership position. A 
kind of political leadership, if you will. 
I think Head of Study is a very 
misleading title. Maybe I'm more a 
kind of a Study Developer.” 
(Interview, Harboe, 2013) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The academic middle manager 
holds an paradoxical in-between 
possibilities: 
• unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows 
what’s happening in the organization) 
• integrates strategic information with 
operational information (and vice versa) 
• is in position to speak and negotiate with 
stakeholders in the organization on 
strategic, organizational and operational 
level. 
• relatively large freedom with regard to his 
acting and behavior: his role fulfillment 
position 
constraints: 
• encapsulated in processes 
• imbalance in role expectations 
and freedom of action 
• accountable, but no 
authorization 
• leadership is expected, but 
account with reference to 
managerial targets, etc. 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The academic middle manager 
holds an paradoxical in-between 
possibilities: 
• unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows 
what’s happening in the organization) 
• integrates strategic information with 
operational information (and vice versa) 
• is in position to speak and negotiate with 
stakeholders in the organization on 
strategic, organizational and operational 
level. 
• relatively large freedom with regard to his 
acting and behavior: his role fulfillment 
position 
constraints: 
• encapsulated in processes 
• imbalance in role expectations 
and freedom of action 
• accountable, but no 
authorization 
• leadership is expected, but 
account with reference to 
managerial targets, etc. 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The prism effect 
the prism effect of the academic middle manager is 
that he select, interprets and synthesizes information 
and uses this information in a custom way elsewhere 
in the organization. 
(Kallenberg, 2013) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The academic middle manager 
holds an paradoxical in-between 
possibilities: 
• unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows 
what’s happening in the organization) 
• integrates strategic information with 
operational information (and vice versa) 
• is in position to speak and negotiate 
with stakeholders in the organization 
on strategic, organizational and 
operational level. 
• relatively large freedom with regard to his 
acting and behavior: his role fulfillment 
position 
constraints: 
• encapsulated in processes 
• imbalance in role expectations 
and freedom of action 
• accountable, but no 
authorization 
• leadership is expected, but 
account with reference to 
managerial targets, etc. 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
The traditional collegial culture 
“The role I really often get, is what some call a broker. A kind of dealer. 
One to get the pieces to fall into place, after prior consultation with the 
Head of Department, of course, but also with the staff. So, it is very rare 
that I order people to take care of certain tasks. More often I have, what 
you can call, friendly conversation and queries. If people disagree with 
me, they are welcome to meet with the Head of Department. Because I 
have no formal powers to put too much trump behind my words.” 
(interview, Harboe, 2013) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Role fulfillment of academic 
middle managers 
(Kallenberg, 2013) 
Guard - creating an atmosphere of order 
and alignment within the study 
Guide - introducing and maintaining 
cohesion and development of the 
employees 
Constructor - focussing on achieving goals 
Diplomat - searching in a creative manner 
for opportunities and means to realize his 
vision. 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Changing landscape in Higher Education 
it’s not stable 
it gets other characteristics 
the policy room is changing: shifting boundaries 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Netherlands: Recently new attention for quality of teaching; 
quality of education; increasing criticism on (the amount of) 
managers in education 
Denmark: high level of political attention, local reforms 
changing focus from the local professional basis organization 
to the multidisciplinary levels, leadership programmes aimed 
specific at Heads of Study 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture? 
Macro level: Reforms and 
political attentions
Changing landscape Higher 
Education 
Traditional Forms New Public Management 
Decision making Garbage can models Rationalist approach 
Interconnection Loosely coupled systems 
collegiality 
Tight and controlled 
competitive 
Inflow initial students increasing diversity 
Quality assurance emerging peer-review necessity to prove quality 
Focus on Learning of students 
Academic values 
Efficiency of students 
Efficiency / effectivity 
Output Quality driven Quantity driven (“publish or perish”) 
Governance Democratic Hierarchic 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture? 
Our struggle and questioning
“Today I would guess that you can not start a new program without 
the department head and the dean to not just say it's a good plan, but 
to be wholeheartedly for it. I did once, actually, started a program 
from scratch without the support and I sourced support along the 
way. Today it is not to be this bottom-up process. Today you will 
evaluate how needs are different places and develop a strategy: 
"Develop this program". And this is in my opinion very demotivating.” 
(interview, Harboe, 2013) 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture? 
The strategic levels are more 
dominant today
Tensions that mark the position 
of the academic middle 
manager 
1. tension of focus: centralization versus decentralization (central 
staff vs faculties) 
2. tension of functions: administrators (managerial efficiency) versus 
professionals (content quality) 
3. tension of initiative: top-down versus bottom-up (and vice-versa) 
4. tension of interest: education versus research 
5. tension of control: hierarchy versus collegiality 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Management concepts 
Dominant perspective on middle management from literature: 
60’s - control agent (Chandler, Cyert & March) 
70’s - “Jack of all trades” (Mintzberg, Adizes, Quinn & Rohrbauch) 
80’s - Desillusion 
90’s - Strategist (Floyd & Wooldridge, Bartlett & Ghoshal, Nonaka & Takeuchi) 
00’s - Knowledge broker (Huy, Druskat & Wheeler, Larsen) 
10’s - ??? 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
From To 
Character Professionalism Managerialism 
Focus Intern oriented and control Management of external relations 
Ambition Leaders with own academic career Leaders with managerial driving 
forces 
Appointment Temporarily part time position Permanent full time position 
Focus on Learning of students 
Academic values 
Professional autonomy 
Efficiency of students 
Efficiency / effectivity 
Common output 
Control Democratic governance model Hierarchic professional model / 
integral management 
Trends in the management 
concepts 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
1. pendulum movement towards a new kind of 
professionalism? 
2. the academic middle manager is still in the same position 
with the same constraints and possibilities 
3. the academic middle manager is still seeking for a 
delicate balance, a hybrid spot between professionalism 
and managerialism. 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture? 
Again … the question !
Characteristics of the “third way” new academic middle 
manager: 
Subtle leadership, but in a new and more persistent form 
• Collegial leadership 
• Prism effect 
• Strategic - global awareness, sustainability 
• Focus on professionalism - content driven, dialogue with the researchers 
• Focus on efficiency and effectivity 
• Skills: framing (what’s expected of me?); holistic view; negotiator; broker; 
networker; focus (not 100 but 6 projects); servant leadership; 
introduction 
position middle 
manager 
changing 
landscape HE 
management 
concepts 
Discussion: 
a critical juncture?
Thomas Harboe 
tha@samf.ku.dk 
Kopenhagen University - Denmark 
Ton Kallenberg 
a.j.kallenberg@hum.leidenuniv.nl 
Leiden University - The Netherlands 
You are invited to download the presentation on: 
www.slidesharenet.com/tonkallenberg 
The paper will be available on: 
https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/TonKallenberg

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Eair 2014 harboe&kallenberg

  • 1. Shifting boundaries: The academic middle manager negotiating the landscape between policy and practice Ton Kallenberg Leiden University - The Netherlands Thomas Harboe Kopenhagen University - Denmark Paper Presentation EAIR 2014 Higher Education Diversity and Excellence for Society Duisburg-Essen, Germany, August 28-30, 2014.
  • 2. 1. Introduction 2. Position academic middle manager 3. Changing landscape Higher Education 4. Management concepts 5. Discussion: a critical juncture? introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 3. Who we are and what we do We are “administrators” working on the cross field between the domains of professionals (researchers/teachers) and administrators (management, administration). We fulfilled our PhD-research in 2013. Now we’re going on with our research on academic middle management in shifting national and institutional boundaries. Harboe (2013): 11 semi-structured qualitative interviews with Danish heads of study from 5 out of 8 HE-institutions in Denmark, combined with studies of the literature and relevant documents. Kallenberg (2013): a written survey among academic middle managers working at 14 Dutch universities and 44 universities of applied sciences in The Netherlands. The analysis included 246 subjects (33,37 %) and adequately represents each HE-institution in The Netherlands. Different methods – but the same conclusions! introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 4. Subject: The (academic) middle manager Academic middle manager (Hellawell & Hancock, 2001; Kallenberg, 2005) = umbrella term for the middle manager who: ...is integrally responsible for program curricula, from strategy - including participation in decisions on institutional strategy and responsibility for School/faculty strategy - through to educational management - including control of education and research programs and student relations within the governing board’s parameters. academic manager (Mercer, 2009) mid-level academic manager (Inman, 2007; Whitchurch, 2008; Larsen et al, 2009) manager academics (Deem & Brehony, 2005) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 5. Subject: The (academic) middle manager Academic middle managers are functioning on different levels in the HE-organization: • academic dean (Wolverton et al 2001, Vieira da Motta & Bolan, 2008) • head of department (Smith R., 2003) • head of study (Kallenberg 2013, Harboe 2013) • programme directors, course coordinators (Ladyshewsky et al., 2007) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 6. The position of the academic middle manager “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.” “You’re in the line of fire whether you want it or not” (interviews, Kallenberg, 2013) “It's really a strange title, Head of Study, because you're virtually not leading anyone. You do not have any formal leadership responsibilities. On the contrary, it is a very informal leadership position. A kind of political leadership, if you will. I think Head of Study is a very misleading title. Maybe I'm more a kind of a Study Developer.” (Interview, Harboe, 2013) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 7. The academic middle manager holds an paradoxical in-between possibilities: • unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows what’s happening in the organization) • integrates strategic information with operational information (and vice versa) • is in position to speak and negotiate with stakeholders in the organization on strategic, organizational and operational level. • relatively large freedom with regard to his acting and behavior: his role fulfillment position constraints: • encapsulated in processes • imbalance in role expectations and freedom of action • accountable, but no authorization • leadership is expected, but account with reference to managerial targets, etc. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 8. The academic middle manager holds an paradoxical in-between possibilities: • unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows what’s happening in the organization) • integrates strategic information with operational information (and vice versa) • is in position to speak and negotiate with stakeholders in the organization on strategic, organizational and operational level. • relatively large freedom with regard to his acting and behavior: his role fulfillment position constraints: • encapsulated in processes • imbalance in role expectations and freedom of action • accountable, but no authorization • leadership is expected, but account with reference to managerial targets, etc. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 9. The prism effect the prism effect of the academic middle manager is that he select, interprets and synthesizes information and uses this information in a custom way elsewhere in the organization. (Kallenberg, 2013) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 10. The academic middle manager holds an paradoxical in-between possibilities: • unique ‘(tacit) knowledge’ basis (he knows what’s happening in the organization) • integrates strategic information with operational information (and vice versa) • is in position to speak and negotiate with stakeholders in the organization on strategic, organizational and operational level. • relatively large freedom with regard to his acting and behavior: his role fulfillment position constraints: • encapsulated in processes • imbalance in role expectations and freedom of action • accountable, but no authorization • leadership is expected, but account with reference to managerial targets, etc. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 11. The traditional collegial culture “The role I really often get, is what some call a broker. A kind of dealer. One to get the pieces to fall into place, after prior consultation with the Head of Department, of course, but also with the staff. So, it is very rare that I order people to take care of certain tasks. More often I have, what you can call, friendly conversation and queries. If people disagree with me, they are welcome to meet with the Head of Department. Because I have no formal powers to put too much trump behind my words.” (interview, Harboe, 2013) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 12. Role fulfillment of academic middle managers (Kallenberg, 2013) Guard - creating an atmosphere of order and alignment within the study Guide - introducing and maintaining cohesion and development of the employees Constructor - focussing on achieving goals Diplomat - searching in a creative manner for opportunities and means to realize his vision. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 13. Changing landscape in Higher Education it’s not stable it gets other characteristics the policy room is changing: shifting boundaries introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 14. Netherlands: Recently new attention for quality of teaching; quality of education; increasing criticism on (the amount of) managers in education Denmark: high level of political attention, local reforms changing focus from the local professional basis organization to the multidisciplinary levels, leadership programmes aimed specific at Heads of Study introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture? Macro level: Reforms and political attentions
  • 15. Changing landscape Higher Education Traditional Forms New Public Management Decision making Garbage can models Rationalist approach Interconnection Loosely coupled systems collegiality Tight and controlled competitive Inflow initial students increasing diversity Quality assurance emerging peer-review necessity to prove quality Focus on Learning of students Academic values Efficiency of students Efficiency / effectivity Output Quality driven Quantity driven (“publish or perish”) Governance Democratic Hierarchic introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 16. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture? Our struggle and questioning
  • 17. “Today I would guess that you can not start a new program without the department head and the dean to not just say it's a good plan, but to be wholeheartedly for it. I did once, actually, started a program from scratch without the support and I sourced support along the way. Today it is not to be this bottom-up process. Today you will evaluate how needs are different places and develop a strategy: "Develop this program". And this is in my opinion very demotivating.” (interview, Harboe, 2013) introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture? The strategic levels are more dominant today
  • 18. Tensions that mark the position of the academic middle manager 1. tension of focus: centralization versus decentralization (central staff vs faculties) 2. tension of functions: administrators (managerial efficiency) versus professionals (content quality) 3. tension of initiative: top-down versus bottom-up (and vice-versa) 4. tension of interest: education versus research 5. tension of control: hierarchy versus collegiality introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 19. Management concepts Dominant perspective on middle management from literature: 60’s - control agent (Chandler, Cyert & March) 70’s - “Jack of all trades” (Mintzberg, Adizes, Quinn & Rohrbauch) 80’s - Desillusion 90’s - Strategist (Floyd & Wooldridge, Bartlett & Ghoshal, Nonaka & Takeuchi) 00’s - Knowledge broker (Huy, Druskat & Wheeler, Larsen) 10’s - ??? introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 20. From To Character Professionalism Managerialism Focus Intern oriented and control Management of external relations Ambition Leaders with own academic career Leaders with managerial driving forces Appointment Temporarily part time position Permanent full time position Focus on Learning of students Academic values Professional autonomy Efficiency of students Efficiency / effectivity Common output Control Democratic governance model Hierarchic professional model / integral management Trends in the management concepts introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 21. 1. pendulum movement towards a new kind of professionalism? 2. the academic middle manager is still in the same position with the same constraints and possibilities 3. the academic middle manager is still seeking for a delicate balance, a hybrid spot between professionalism and managerialism. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 22. introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture? Again … the question !
  • 23. Characteristics of the “third way” new academic middle manager: Subtle leadership, but in a new and more persistent form • Collegial leadership • Prism effect • Strategic - global awareness, sustainability • Focus on professionalism - content driven, dialogue with the researchers • Focus on efficiency and effectivity • Skills: framing (what’s expected of me?); holistic view; negotiator; broker; networker; focus (not 100 but 6 projects); servant leadership; introduction position middle manager changing landscape HE management concepts Discussion: a critical juncture?
  • 24. Thomas Harboe tha@samf.ku.dk Kopenhagen University - Denmark Ton Kallenberg a.j.kallenberg@hum.leidenuniv.nl Leiden University - The Netherlands You are invited to download the presentation on: www.slidesharenet.com/tonkallenberg The paper will be available on: https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/TonKallenberg