Process to practice: The evolving role of the academic middle manager in English further education colleges

Peter Wolstencroft, Catherine Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


The English further education sector has undergone significant change since the Further and Higher Education Act (1992) encouraged a culture of entrepreneurship, competition and the use of what was seen as best practice from the commercial sector. This led to a cultural shift and the introduction of many new initiatives – a situation that still exists now. The implementation of these initiatives was often delegated to middle managers – a group of people who occupied the gap between the senior leaders and the lecturers in the classroom. Current austerity measures, restructuring and the shift towards the creation of larger organizations have resulted in reorganizations that could present opportunities for middle managers to participate in the strategic processes and leadership of the organization, further developing their role (Greatbatch and Tate, 2018). The purpose of this article is to investigate the leadership and management aspects of the middle-manager’s role within the context of further education in England. Although many managers in the sector are reluctant to identify as leaders (Briggs, 2006), our research shows that their role has evolved so that they are undertaking a range of activities that could be classified as leadership. We suggest that using ‘practice’ rather than ‘process’ as a descriptor of the role would reframe, identify and bring forward the leadership aspects of what they do. Encouraging a focus on a holistic, practice-based approach, rather than a succession of process-driven tasks, could help managers to perform their role more effectively. Findings taken from interviews with 32 participants and a questionnaire with 302 responses are used to illustrate our argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-125
Number of pages8
JournalManagement in Education
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

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  • further education
  • middle leadership
  • middle management
  • practice
  • process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Strategy and Management


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