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Educational Research for Social Change

versión On-line ISSN 2221-4070


MCKENNA, Sioux. The Rise of the Executive Dean and the Slide into Managerialism. Educ. res. soc. change [online]. 2020, vol.9, n.spe, pp.78-91. ISSN 2221-4070.

Universities have long been characterised by hierarchical and paternalistic management structures and institutional cultures. Change is therefore to be welcomed but, in contexts where social change is urgently needed, it is possible to mistake a change in any direction as being worthwhile. Around the world, recent shifts in university leadership and management have been towards managerialist approaches that work against a shared responsibility for the academic project. Accusations of managerialism often refer to a general sense that institutions are becoming bureaucratic, or that it is the logic of the market that drives decision-making. But beyond vague complaints, these accusations fail to identify the exact processes whereby managerialism takes hold of the institution. This article hones in on one specific example of institutional change in order to argue that it is implicated in the move towards managerialism: most universities in South Africa have changed from having elected deans, selected by faculty, to executive deans, appointed by selection committee. Crudely distinguished, it can be said that elected deans represent the interests of their faculty up into various institutional structures whereas executive deans are tasked with implementing the decisions of top management down into faculty. This paper tracks the differences between the two forms of deanship through reflections on discussions about such a change at one South African institution, Rhodes University. It analyses the literature to argue that we do not have to choose between patriarchal management and compliance-based managerialism. Instead, we can choose shared responsibility for the academic project.

Palabras clave : managerialism; executive deans; leadership; university management; collegiality.

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