I have been asked to work on a project that looks at how Principal Lecturers and Course Leaders feel valued across DMU. Working with Professor Bob John, and reporting to the Vice-Chancellor and the Director of HR, we have been asked to find out what ‘value’ Principal Lecturers place on their role within the different faculties and departments, and more importantly, what value do these groups perceive that the university places on them?
The project comes out of the staff survey response that indicated that the lowest return of satisfaction across the university was the PL group. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what the PL group actually is!. The assumption has been that it relates to Principal Lecturers, as it was assumed that most Programme Leaders across the university would also be Principal Lecturers.
Reality often bites very early in a study like this, as was quickly found out when discussing the issues flagged up by the survey. We soon realised that there is a lot of variation between faculties in the way that they define who can be a programme leader and what they need to do to undertake the role. Faculties have, it seems, mapped out the role of programme leader, and even subject leader, in very different ways.
In pure HR terms it should be easy. There is a map of roles agreed in the National Framework Agreement, which indicate that course leadership is related to senior academic status, and should thus be undertaken by Principal Lecturers. The truth is that these things are more often defined by custom and practice, and that academics become programme leaders on the basis of promotion, external application, reward or even length of service.
So our initial task is to unpick how the role of Senior Lecturer, Principal Lecturer, Programme Leader and Subject Leader are perceived in a world where they are mashed-up and confused, and where the role of universities themselves are subject to enormous stress and change. While we are not going to be able to provide detailed answers, it may be useful to think about how the role of Principal Lecturer is going to develop and move forward. Particularly as the role that universities themselves play in this changing world is also moving forward.
What do we need to be thinking about? What do we want to be able to do, and how do we want to be able to do it? What are the equivalent organisational structures and roles in equivalent businesses? How does discretionary effort continue to be rewarded while making the most effective use of PLs as a resource? And, how does accountability continue to be shared across the organisation? In short, how do we get into the culture of the university and think about the transformative capability of our leaders-in-the-middle?
So I’m going to keep a running blog of our thoughts and ideas as we meander through this difficult organisational minefield, and will share some speculative ideas, concepts and examples from different parts of the university, from other universities and from other businesses who’s knowledge based products are also transformative and change-making.