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Search for Academic Excellence in Public Universities through Multi-level Leadership Practices : Lessons Learnt from East Asia. Presenter: Ngo Tuyet Mai, School of Education University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Why University Leadership?. “University leadership matters.”

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Search for Academic Excellence in Public Universities through Multi-level Leadership Practices:Lessons Learnt from East Asia

Presenter: Ngo Tuyet Mai,

School of Education

University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

why university leadership
Why University Leadership?
  • “University leadership matters.”

(e.g., Fullan, 2005; Hallinger, 2007; Millett, 1978; Mulford, 2010; Ramsden, 1998).

  • “Good leadership is conceivably the most practical and cost-effective strategy known to organizations … It can transform the commonplace and average into the remarkable and excellent…It creates an environment for better academic work.”

(Ramsden, 1998, p.363)

“The changing landscape of higher education requires new thinking and updated leadership practices.” (ADB, 2012)

why leadership actions
Why Leadership Actions?

National Government, universities and their sub-organizational units (departments) are ‘corporate actors’ who can act and need to act. He or she can act in a certain function or from a certain ‘corporate’ position.”

(Binsbergen et al., 1994, p.223)

why leadership actions1
Why Leadership Actions?
  • “Leadership is the particular actions of leaders…Leadership resides in the eye of the beholder (subjectivist/interpretivist) or in the actions of leaders (objectivist/functionalist)”

(Middlehurst, 1993, p.19)

  • “Organizations’ intelligence is seen in leaders’ actions”

(Hanson, 2001, p.644).

“Leaders must be ‘people of actions’”

(Ramsden, 1998, p.9).

leaders actions in university contexts
Leaders’ Actions in University Contexts

Actions concerning PRIMARY processes

(academic tasks)

Actions concerning SECONDARY processes

(supportive tasks)

why incentives promoting actions
Why Incentives Promoting Actions?
  • The function of university leadership is to provide [promote] incentives for academics to achieve academic excellence

(Kehm & Lazendorf (2007, p.171)

  • “Any success of public actions depends on the adequacy of incentives that they offer to individual units”

(Varghese, 2004, p.30)

  • “Successful reforms in higher education in the recent past were those with incentives to the academic staff”

(Zheng, 1997)

why multi level leadership
Why Multi-level Leadership?

A Multi-level Model


University Leadership


(Government/Ministry Leadership Actions


(Executive University Leadership Actions)


(Departmental Leadership Actions )

presentation focus
Presentation Focus
  • Multi-level University Leadership Actions of Promoting Incentives for Academic Excellence in Practice: Empirical Case Studies
  • Implications for Practice: East Asian Lessons for Vietnam
  • Concluding Remarks
key research questions
Key Research Questions
  • WHAT do macro, meso and micro leaders in East Asian flagship public universities do in promoting incentives towards achieving universities’ academic excellence?
  • WHAT can Vietnam learn from other East Asian public university’s multi level leadership practices?


Data Collection and Sources



University Documents


Questionnaire Survey

Qualitative Database

Quantitative Database

Thematic Analysis: Using Nvivo 9

Statistical Analysis:


Descriptive statistics

Scale Alpha Reliability

Evidence of Meso Leaders’ Actions

Evidence of Macro Leaders’ Actions

Evidence of Micro Leaders’ Actions

A Multi-level Model of Leadership Actions

research sites in east asia 4 flagship public universities
Research Sites in East Asia: 4 Flagship Public Universities

implication 1 policy initiatives and leadership actions
Implication 1: Policy Initiatives and Leadership Actions
  • Government Policy Initiatives: Regulations by Directives vs. Regulations by incentives
  • University Policy Initiatives


Specific, focused, strategic leadership actions

Establish a database of effective multi-level university leadership practices

implication 2 for leadership practice
Implication 2 for Leadership Practice

Direct the job to be done (Task Structuring)

Coordinate and foster the work team as a whole

Support and review the individual people doing it

implication 3 financial incentives and social incentives
Implication 3: Financial Incentives and Social Incentives
  • 'social incentives' (high appreciations/regards)
  • 'financial incentives' (money rewards)

(Kehm & Lazendorf, 2007, p.157)

“Incentives should be individualized to the greatest extent possible given the nature of the education organization”

(Windham, 1997, p.47)

implication 4 strategic leadership actions
Implication 4: Strategic Leadership Actions
  • A single action can be multi-functional (Adair, 1988)
  • “A single input by a leader can have multiple outcomes” (Mulford, 2010, p.187)
  • Actions balancing 3 inter-connected needs (1) the task to be performed, (2) the team responsible for performing them, (3) the individuals in that team (Adair, 1988, p.1)
  • Success, therefore, will depend on which elements and in what sequence the education leader chooses to spend time and attention on (Mulford, 2007, 2010).
wrap up practical lessons learnt from the empirical study
Wrap-up: Practical Lessons Learnt From The Empirical Study
  • Increasing Autonomy
  • Empower more, control less
  • Individual needs focused
  • Focused Efforts on Academic Goals,
  • A System of Coordinated and Collective Leadership Actions
concluding remarks
Concluding Remarks

“It may be a mistake to believe that all leadership actions must come from ‘leaders’”

(Birnbaum,1989, p.134)

“The elements for successful university leadership involve being contextually “literate”, organizationally “savvy” and leadership “smart”.”

(Bill Mulford, 2010, p.187)