The University of Newcastle, Australia

July 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

There is no doubt that our Heads of School hold one of the most challenging and important roles in the University. On any given day they juggle matters of finance, HR, IT, marketing and student services. With one eye on their School's operations, they have the other on setting and monitoring the academic and research direction for their School's disciplines, as well as delivering strategies and targets to meet the University's vision.

The role has always been complex and diverse, and as the sector becomes more competitive nationally and internationally, a much greater emphasis is emerging on the need for Heads of School to hold strong strategic leadership capabilities and qualities. They are required to be leading academics, and, in equal measure, academic leaders.

Until now, the sector's approach to appointing into these key roles has been primarily based on an internal rotation process or a ‘tap on the shoulder'. After a tour of duty, it was not unusual for the incumbent to step out of the trenches and gratefully make way for their successor. Recognising that the role of Head of School calls for a discrete set of leadership skills, many universities are now examining better ways to recruit into these pivotal positions. As a result, universities generally are moving towards a more targeted formal selection and appointment process for Heads of School.

Pursuing a Head of School role can be a strategic career move where someone has the opportunity to find out whether running a faculty, portfolio or indeed a university is something to consider in the long haul. In this context, new procedures for the future recruitment and appointment of Heads of School at UON have been developed.

Reflecting the importance of the role, future appointments of Heads of School will generally now be through a competitive open process and may be assisted by a professional search team with a track record of achievement in the field. The appointments will be informed by a strategic analysis of the School, its staff and its performance against the University's vision, strategic priorities and targets.

We are also reviewing the suite of development programs and business intelligence tools that can be provided to our Heads of School to support them in their role.

Through these changes, we are setting up the environment to ensure our Heads of School have the skills and support they need to succeed in a role that is absolutely critical to the success of our University.

Best wishes

Caroline McMillen

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