Sue Shepherd

Higher Education Researcher, Manager and Consultant


The University Top Team

Managers, Management and Managerialism


My research addresses the relatively little investigated area of university senior management teams. Specifically, it focuses on Deputy and Pro Vice Chancellors (PVCs) within pre-1992 English universities. It addresses why the appointment of these PVCs is changing and what the consequences of change are for individual managers and, more broadly, for management capacity building in the sector. There has already been considerable media and policy interest in the findings.


At a theoretical level, the thesis considers the implications of change for the notion of managerialism in a higher education context. By comparing the empirical data with indicators of an ideal-type managerialism I have developed, it has been possible to explore the extent to which managerialism is manifesting itself in practice. I also subject to critical examination the prevailing academic 'misery narrative' which holds that academic power is declining in favour of that of managers.

The Myth of Managerialism?


Are managers really taking over or are academics reasserting their authority?


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All Change at the Top?


The demands of university management have changed dramatically. But have the people who are getting the senior jobs?


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The Missing Women


There is growing concern about the continuing gender imbalance at the most senior level in English universities


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There was a flurry of negative media coverage last year about the "new breed of fat cat" that had allegedly emerged in higher education: the university vice chancellor. Such was the level of concern that Vince Cable formally requested that university leaders exercise greater pay restraint. However, arguably not much has changed since then. This blog examines why the remuneration of vice chancellors and PVCs has continued to rise and considers what this signifies for university management. The rise and rise of executive pay





"I am currently Sue's PhD supervisor and she is a joy to supervise. Her research topic is a really interesting and neglected one: the nature of change in senior management teams in Universities; it links into issues of new public management, managerialism and gender.


She is a real self-starter: very well organised, full of interesting ideas and has managed to design and generate an incomparable data set from surveys and interviews. The thesis is really set to make a major theoretical and empirical contribution.


She has developed excellent research and presentation skills and matured as a thinker during her PhD, transferable skills that will be highly marketable after she has finished the thesis."


Sarah Vickerstaff, Professor of Work and Employment, University of Kent

Copyright Sue Shepherd 2014