What is the project about?

Located between senior management and academic staff, the role of the Associate Dean in Universities appears to be growing in number, complexity and importance in recent years. A role arguably fraught with complexity, it remains largely undefined and under-researched. The purpose of this project was to explore how the role of Associate Dean was defined, perceived and experienced across a range of universities in the UK.

The study used a two staged, mixed methods approach. Specifically, we used an exploratory, sequential mixed methods design where qualitative data are gathered and analysed first, before quantitative data are collected from a larger sample size.

In stage one, we conducted qualitative research undertaking interviews with 15 Associate Deans (ADs) from 5 different institutions. In order to examine whether the findings from stage one were indicative of Associate Deans’ perceptions and experiences in a wider range of universities and to compare and contrast data between pre and post 1992 institutions, in the second stage of the project we undertook a survey of ADs using an online questionnaire (Survey Monkey) which was based on themes and issues emanating from the first stage of the project (n=172). This was the first national survey of Associate Deans to be undertaken in the UK.

In evaluating this crucial but under-researched role, it is hoped that a more thorough understanding of the role of associate dean will emerge, which is important for policymakers, managers and researchers. Such research, for example, could help in the selection processes for new associate deans, allow for more informed career advice for associate deans (potential and in post), and help tailor specific training, development and support for academics who aspire to, or who are in, associate dean roles

Who is running the project?

The project was run by Professor Alan Floyd at the University of Reading in collaboration with Dr Diane Preston at the Open University.

Who is funding the project?

The project was funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (now Advance HE)

Find out more

The project report is available here: Exploring the Role of Associate Deans in UK Universities