The role of the university research centre director: Seven Australian cases
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This thesis develops new knowledge and understanding of the role of the university research Centre Director. Half the academic research in Australia is now estimated to be undertaken in research Centres. During the nineteen-nineties, the numbers of Australian university Centres multiplied rapidly, in response to changes in government funding policy. The introduction of the Unified National System of higher education in 1988 meant that along with many new universities came many new research Centres. As each Centre requires a Director, numerous academics have taken on this role. Sparse prior research on university research Centre Directors indicated the need for an exploratory study to examine the underlying issues related to their work. This thesis unravels the multiple realities within the Directors' lives, in the rapidly changing environment of higher education. Seven Directors and their colleagues, in two well established and four comparatively new Centres, participated in qualitative case studies. The major issues impacting on Directors emerged as; the complex, multi-faced nature of their role, the constancy of the search for funding, the impact of Centre structure within the host university, and the importance of collegial support from superiors. Interpretive analysis was used to develop concepts for the often conflicting expectations interested patties hold of the Director. Directors were found to vary in their use of the skills of Directorship; grantsmanship; partnering with the host university and sponsors; watchful expectancy over Centre colleagues to ensure quality; and proactive involvement outside the university to influence research outcomes. Directors rarely receive formal training or mentoring for their role, but learn from good and poor exemplars. In the competitive research funding environment, success emerged as survival of the Centre. Several practical suggestions are forthcoming for appropriate support for new university research Centre Directors, for university administrators, and for further research.