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Friday, 28th February 2020


In this outstanding research report published by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Dr. Diane Bebbington of Knowledge Perspectives shows that in spite of the huge diversity of students in this sector, the diversity among the lecturers and staff in leadership positions is at best weak, in areas like gender, disability, race equality, religion and age.The report examines all the research in this area guided by an expert group of academics. Among its findings are:

  • Theories of leadership tend to ignore diversity in cultures and approaches to leadership
  • Organisations are biased in their recruitment and promotion procedures
  • Many leaders are reluctant to engage with the subject of equality
  • There is a white male, middle-class, non-disabled bias among the staff

Diane makes sweeping recommendations for change including:

  • Significant leadership commitment and resources devoted to this area
  • A strategic review and emphasis on equality at all levels
  • A pro-active strategy for equality

It is commendable that the sector has undertaken such an open and honest review. My personal comments would be as follows:

  • Data on industrial tribunals and out of court settlements relating to any type of discrimination is being held by the HR departments of publicly owned universities. These should be made available for research of this type and would show how shocking the level of discrimination is in this sector.
  • There is a particular British culture of leadership which Diverse Ethics have found common throughout the UK. It is hierarchical, power-centred, and exclusive. What Diane has found in the case of the HE sector is therefore not very different. Leaders in this country really need to face up front the ghost of power and their personal obsession with power. In other cultures, the approach to power is very different - many are not obsessed by it, and if they do have it, use it with the highest degree of care and humility. Leaders like Mandela were happy to give up their power even when they were at the zenith.
  • The unique work of Diverse Ethics shows that we need to really tackle the whole culture and values of leadership if change is to happen. We are doing this in very creative ways, to huge effect, without confronting individuals and instead enabling them to learn and grow. However, they need to be willing to open their minds to such possibilities. At present, far too many minds are closed and fearful.

Article added on 4th May 2010 at 7:51am
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