Process to Practice: The Evolving Role of the Middle Manager in English Further Education

Peter Wolstencroft, Catherine Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


For those outside his confines, the purpose and remit of the further education sector can be hard to define (Randle and Brady, 1997; Spenceley, 2007). Yet when you dig below the surface, what emerges is a sector that is both resilient and responsive (Daley et al, 2015). At the heart of this lie the middle managers, a group whose role has changed considerably since the incorporation of colleges, to one that has moved away from a pedagogical focus to one that is concentrated on administrative and managerial tasks. Current austerity measures and the shift towards the creation of larger organisations, has resulted in restructures that present opportunities for middle managers to participate in the strategic processes and leadership of the organisation. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of the middle manager within English further education, drawing out the leadership and management aspects. Whilst many managers in the sector are reluctant to identify as leaders (Briggs, 2006) our research shows that they are, in fact, 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 of a middle manager would reframe the way the role is viewed and would help identify and bring to the fore, the leadership aspects of what they do. Encouraging them to focus on a holistic, practice based, approach to the role, rather than concentrating on a succession of process driven tasks enables managers to have an increased clarity of vision which will help them expand their influence within the organisation and perform their role more effectively.
The findings, taken from interviews with thirty-two participants and a questionnaire with 252 responses are used to illustrate our argument and demonstrate the need for leadership development within this key role.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2018
Event3rd International ARPCE Conference - University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Jul 201815 Jul 2018
Conference number: 3


Conference3rd International ARPCE Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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