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Understanding the postgraduate research student experience in a culture of collaborative leadership

Project leader(s): 
Ann Grand

The AstrobiologyOU Directorate aspires to lead collaboratively; a relatively uncommon leadership practice in academia, and not one that organisations necessarily have the structures to deal with. While there are different models of collaborative leadership, the common factor is that vision, values and responsibilities are shared (Lawrence, 20171), in contrast to to-down hierarchical leadership, or co-operative leadership in which responsibilities are divided (Holliman& Scanlon, 20062).

This project aims first to understand perceptions and practice of collaborative leadership in AstrobiologyOU and its implications for postgraduate student supervision teams. Second, we will investigate postgraduate research students’ perceptions of collaborative academic leadership and its impacts on their experiences. Finally, we will envision ways the University could enhance the experience of future postgraduate research students supervised collaboratively by interdisciplinary teams.

Postgraduate research students (and thus early career researchers) are the future leaders of academia and industry; this project will examine the experience, meaning, behaviours, knowledge of and impacts of collaborative leadership from the perspective of (i) members of the AstrobiologyOU leadership team, (ii) current and former research students (iii) postgraduate tutors and associated professional services and the OU graduate school, with the aim of identifying ways to enhance the learning experience of postgraduate research students working in collaboration and under collaborative leadership.

The project report will include co-designed scenarios presenting pathways for the University that could enhance learning and career outcomes for research students. There will also be a journal paper and conference presentations.

1Lawrence, R. (2017) ‘Understanding collaborative leadership in theory and practice’. In: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education no. 156, Winter 2017 Available online: DOI: 10.1002/ace.2026289

2Holliman, R. and Scanlon, E. (2006) Investigating co-operation and collaboration in near synchronous computer mediated conferences. Computers and Education, 46(3) pp. 322–335.

Ann Grand and Vic Pearson poster