Can Deans Fix the Dysfunction in Higher Education?
University professors, provosts, and presidents know that higher education faces serious challenges, but those who hold these positions are too far removed from the problem to fix it.
To find how to overcome the dysfunction in higher education, you have to focus on the mid-management position of the dean.
What does a dean do?
The dean lives and works at the hub of higher ed. A dean’s duties include instructional program oversight, faculty and staff supervision, and budget management. They receive complaints, seek supplemental funding, and communicate with stakeholders within and outside the university system.
With so much on their desks, it seems evident that they need support, and this support could help deans fix the dysfunction in higher education.
What is the dysfunction in higher ed?
When the business of higher education begins to fracture into isolated areas, dysfunction is taking over. The disconnection occurs when instruction, finance, scholarly research and professional collaboration exist in isolation from each other. The silo approach to higher education is less effective than an integrated approach
Experts recommend reviewing each of the following departmental issues:
- Academic – Maintaining rigorous standards for research and teaching is critical to the success of higher education.
- Cultural – The tendency to do business the way it has always been done can have a negative impact on students and faculty.
- Interpersonal – Academia can attract personalities that clash with each other unless management can step in to mentor and coach faculty.
- Leadership – Effective leaders must be able to manage current situations and plan for future transition.
- External influences – Donors and alumni can influence department decisions.
University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) thought so, too. Upper management developed a leadership program for deans. The idea was to help those at the center of impact develop the skills they needed for success.
The professional development for the deans consisted of timely discussions, training, feedback, and coaching. Committing time to the program was the most difficult challenge, but the deans developed the skills they needed for improved influence and leadership.
University deans were able to integrate their newly learned skills in areas critical to the success of the school.
Deans can fix the dysfunction in higher education, but to do so, they need continued support from upper management. They also need time to develop the necessary skills and apply them.