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Business & FinanceUniversitySociety

Hybrid Managers in Higher Education: Power, Identity and Challenges

This project examines the work of hybrid managers in universities - the Heads of Department (HoDs) that hold management roles, overseeing the work of other academics. Straddling the worlds of ‘management’ and ‘worker’, the hybrid-manager is the lynch pin that enables the delivery of policy ‘from above’ and the implementation of it ‘by the below’. Despite UK universities contributing £95BN gross output to the economy (Universities UK 2014-15), this crucial cadre of leadership is under-researched and often under-supported.

This project will build on results from a pilot study, exploring HoD types previously identified, and the motivations and challenges of the hybrid role in this context. Through the lens of leader self-sacrifice, the project will seek to understand the reasons why HoDs take on the role and the double-edged consequences of doing so. It will also examine power and the means through which HoDs enact their role effectively.


We aim to conduct a UK-wide qualitative study of academic Heads of Department in order to gain insights into this unique leadership role. The findings of this work will inform academic publications, as well as the design of leadership development programmes for this leadership cadre.

We aim to create and trial evidence-based development for HoDs to enable them to thrive in their roles and to produce a freely-available toolkit for universities to support their HoDs.


Building on the qualitative pilot study with 20 HoDs in two English universities the project will undertake an interview study of circa 70 HoDs across the higher education sector, ensuring representation of institutions by mission group, size and location, the four devolved nations of the UK, as well as various genders of participants and job levels (e.g. Reader, Professor).

The interviews will enable us to confirm the initial HoD typology created in the pilot and to identify further nuances of how institutional logics are interpreted and power used in academic institutions.


To date, the findings have been used to inform the content of the King's College London HoDs Leadership Development Programme, as well as ongoing career development initiatives for Heads of Department

Project status: Ongoing

Principal Investigators


Funding Body: Leverhulme Trust

Amount: 9970

Period: March 2022 - April 2024

Contact us

Ali Budjanovcanin