A case study into leaderism among curriculum managers in further education

  • Martin Lea

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis draws on interviews with 10 further education (FE) curriculum managers. The subsequent analysis uses notions of Foucauldian discourse to critically evaluate the leadership and management practice described by the managers. The purpose of this was to analyse the discourse of leaderism in the college and argue for its existence as an embedded norm. Consequently, this research draws upon neoliberal policy ideals, the history of FE and the effect of this on education institutions, such as FE. Central to the argument in this thesis is that we are now in the era of leaderism in FE and have been so since the early 2000s. Furthermore, an argument is made that leaderism is a hybridised model of leadership that has strong links to managerialism and distributed leadership, through the prioritisation of task orientated managerial control driven by the fashionable lexicon associated withdistributed leadership. Subsequently this provides the persuasive language and enables leaderism to dominate the practice of managers in FE. Several factors have influenced this research, the role of the gatekeeper being significant and the potential for a clash between conflicting identities, one concerned with being a management professional and one of a classroom practitioner. Methodologically complexities existed concerning access to the sample however, this is critiqued to argue that defining the role of a curriculum manager is a complex task and that a singular working definition of leadership also has embedded complexity. In considering all of these factors, a final argument is presented that identifies the discourse at play using a rhizomatic metaphor and argues for the validity of leaderism as a conceptual tool to understand the discourse of leaderism in FE.
Date of Award25 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRobin Simmons (Main Supervisor) & Wayne Bailey (Co-Supervisor)

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