Thirty years on

Think tank: HEPI

Author(s): Rohan Selva-Radov

September 22, 2022

This report from UK think tank HEPI looks at leadership convergence between newer and older universities.

The report shows that while the vice-chancellors of post-1992 universities used to serve much longer terms than those at older universities, tenures at both types of university are now around eight years. In the five years from 1992, immediately after the Further and Higher Education Act (1992) granted university status to polytechnics as well as Central Institutions in Scotland, these institutions’ leaders were in post for on average of 11.5 years. This compared with only 8.8 years at older universities (a gap of around 25%). The disparity has narrowed in the years since, and there is now only a small difference in tenure between the two categories of institution. This paper, which is being published at the start of the 2022/23 academic year to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of the binary system, argues that this convergence is evidence of how pre- and post-1992 universities have become less different from each other over time. It also argues that the overarching reduction in vice-chancellor tenure could be a result of the greater demands placed on university leaders – in particular at the former polytechnics, with university designation driving up standards and leading to a broader professionalisation.