Cover: Higher Education Collaborations:

Higher Education Collaborations:

Implications for Leadership, Management and Governance: Final Report

Published in: Higher Education Collaborations: Implications for Leadership, Management and Governance: Final Report (London :Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, 2011), 59 p

Posted on 2011

by Ruth Levitt, Helen Goreham, Stephanie Diepeveen

This report jointly produced by RAND Europe and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education examines and analyses collaborative activity between UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and organisations external to the higher education sector. HEIs have been developing collaborative relationships for many generations, and the scale and range of these activities have increased significantly in recent years. The findings from this report are based on a literature review, seven selected UK case studies and one European case study. Report findings present some clear pointers to the effective leadership of collaborations. Findings provide insight on the purpose of leadership, and how leadership can be exerted and distributed throughout a collaboration; the skills, roles and communication required for effective relationships; governance structures; and the importance of conflict management and conflict resolution. It concludes with recommendations for HEIs when embarking upon collaborative activity.

Key Findings

  • Leadership in collaborations is essentially concerned with making things happen and focusing on purpose and outcomes.
  • Leadership can be exerted by individuals at different levels of seniority.
  • Leaders within collaborations have to mobilise several types of skills and capabilities and adjust structures and processes.
  • Leadership, governance, and management within collaborations are unlikely to be distributed evenly.
  • The leadership hierarchies of the partner organisations may not be a suitable model for securing the effectiveness of a collaboration.
  • Boundary-spanning roles are essential within collaborations.
  • The senior individuals involved at the very early stages of creating partnerships are responsible for building the support that is essential for the launch of their collaborations.
  • Open communication at all levels is an important responsibility for all participants in a collaboration, using formal and informal channels.
  • Strong working relationships are essential within the collaborative team; these have to be proactively developed and maintained.
  • The structures of the collaborative team itself and in the partners' organisations, can cause friction, particularly if the partnership has to fit in quite closely with existing arrangements or is granted only limited autonomy.
  • Partners have to agree aims and expectations for their collaboration from the outset.
  • Building solid foundations for the partnership will help to ensure it can withstand challenges and conflicts.
  • Competition may occur between partners, particularly where two or more HEIs are participants within the same collaboration.
  • Financial support for collaborations is a significant determinant of their effectiveness and progress.
  • The current financial climate is also affecting the sustainability of collaborations.
  • Collaborations have the potential to bring unanticipated and worthwhile innovations and benefits.


  • Set clear guidelines about how collaboration will affect the individuals involved.
  • Ensure communications with partners and within the HEI are fit for purpose.
  • Ensure the institution sets a positive, supportive 'climate' for collaborative activity.
  • Ensure that lessons and outcomes from partnership working by the partners and from other collaborations elsewhere, are learnt and are fed back to the HEI and its partners, so as not to 're-invent the wheel'.
  • Make the most of the experience of setting up and running collaborations.
  • Actively consider the best options for moving forward where collaborations are successful.
  • Ensure individuals are encouraged and equipped with the information and skills crucial for effective collaborative working.
  • Ensure organisational processes, structures, and systems are adjusted so as to enable more effective collaborative working.
  • Ensure solid governance arrangements, including alert attention to opportunities and risks.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.