Strategic planning was one of the initiatives introduced to Australian universities as part of the higher education reforms enacted in 1988 by the Commonwealth Minister for Employment, Education and Training, John Dawkins.
This study documented and analysed the experiences of a small cohort of staff who were employed in the Australian higher education sector in the post-Dawkins era, to explain how and why strategic planning was introduced to the Australian university sector, examine the role leadership played in this process and the organisational impact this had on their employer universities. The study participants include a Vice-Chancellor, two former Vice-Chancellors, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, a Dean, two former Deputy Chairs of Academic Board and two members of the professoriate [n=9].
The interview data was coded, themed and analysed using qualitative methods (Boyatzis, 1998). The data was then reduced to form first-person case studies that position the participants’ voices within the study (Seidman, 1998). The case studies are presented in three clusters: the Participant Observers [n=3]; the Academic Leaders [n=3]; and the Vice-Chancellors [n=3]. The point of differentiation in determining the cluster boundaries is the degree of active engagement each participant was able to demonstrate in terms of leading strategic planning at an executive level in their employer universities.
The data was referenced against the managerial leadership frameworks developed by Quinn (1990) and Sharrock (2012) to present a conceptual framework of leading strategic planning in Australian universities that proposes four primary leading strategic planning approaches: the academic-political, the academic-scholar, the academic-management, and the blended approach. The blended approach, is an individualised approach that features a blend of political, scholarly and management emphases to address specific organisational concerns and reconcile tensions inherent in the strategic planning context.