Mark Pegg
Corpus Christi, 1972;
Nuffield College, 1975

“My job is to develop the leaders of people who say they don’t want to be led, to develop skills in people who are hard to impress because they are in the learning and teaching business themselves,” says Mark Pegg, chief executive of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, created ‘by the sector for the sector’ to improve the practice of leadership in UK universities.

The Leadership Foundation believes that to compete with the best globally, universities must have excellent leaders, equipped to adapt to a rapidly changing world of new business models, learning technology, and environmental standards, with power shifting into the hands of students. “Thanks to tuition fees and increasing global opportunities for the brightest and best, we’re seeing a more demanding customer/supplier relationship between students and universities than we’ve experienced previously,” says Pegg. “In an age of social networking, opinions about universities are more widely distributed, so they also need to be more sensitive to how they are perceived.”

With the shift in power, what will be the biggest challenges facing the leaders of the future in British universities? “Increasing global competition will be a key issue as students will become even more mobile, increasingly looking to universities in the USA or Europe, or even choosing increasingly interactive and cross-cultural online or virtual routes to learning,” he says.

Supporting senior management in the complex leadership culture found in UK universities will be vital if they are to contribute the innovation and energy needed to power the knowledge economy and aid recovery from economic recession. “Those who work in the HE sector are traditionally fiercely independent and prefer to operate free from political interference,” says Pegg. “But, paradoxically, they need excellent leaders to create the conditions in which they can fulfil their potential. Our job is to help build environments in which these individuals can thrive, and do their best research and give the best teaching. It’s an empowering and engaging type of leadership.”