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Intellectual Leadership in the Context of Doctoral Education

Event type

Seminar , Webinar

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June 17, 2022 (Friday)


5:00 PM - 6:15 PM

Intellectual Leadership in the Context of Doctoral Education

Higher Education in Asia: Moving Ahead

Topic: Intellectual Leadership in the Context of Doctoral Education


Co-organizers: Social Contexts and Policies of Education (Academic Unit) (SCAPE), Consortium for Higher Education Research in Asia (CHERA)


Date: June 17, 2022 (Friday)

Time: 17:00-18:15 (Hong Kong Time)

Format: Zoom



Chair: Dr Hugo Horta, The University of Hong Kong

Speaker: Prof Rosemary Deem, Emerita Professor of Higher Education Management and Doctoral School Senior Research Fellow, Royal Holloway University of London



Intellectual leadership, one might expect, would be at the heart of contemporary doctoral education. This is especially since the Covid 19 pandemic re-ignited the ‘experts versus politicians’ debate, as governments tried to find ways of keeping the virus at bay whilst not wrecking their economies. At the same time, precarity, already rife on many university campuses, has strengthened its hold over higher education institutions (HEIs). The presentation will show how, whilst it is true that recent debates about the doctorate refer to doctoral researchers as future leaders (the assumption is, leaders of research), in contrast to a past when doctoral candidates were regarded as stewards of their discipline, intellectual leadership in its broadest forms is rarely even implicitly considered in doctoral education, let alone the values such as inclusion and social justice which might be attached to leadership. A fresh prioritisation of intellectual leadership needs to permeate universities, starting with doctoral education. In the HE literature, intellectual leadership is a concept most frequently attached to senior academics, not to their junior colleagues. Universities rarely aim much explicit leadership training at early stage researchers. If they do, it is usually at tenure-track stage, not doctoral or postdoctoral level. Academic leadership in general is often seen principally as leadership of research. Even in teaching-intensive higher education institutions, emphasis on developing inspiring intellectual leadership of teaching, is much rarer than emphasis on simply operational leadership.  Intellectual leadership is not or should not be something which is just relevant to the academic context but a set of skills valuable in any setting, be that paid work, public understanding of science, or community development and engagement. Providing intellectual leadership capacity building at doctoral level might be a way of developing, in any academic discipline, a culture which is similar to Burawoy’s work on public sociology, which suggests that academic work can be turned into opportunities to involve the public in key debates on topics of societal value. Thus a training in intellectual leadership could provide a good set of skills and values useful to doctoral researchers, whatever career they eventually follow. For those who stay in academe, learning to shape future collaborative leadership would also contribute to improved organisational strategies of universities, as HEIs endeavour to move on beyond precarity and the pandemic, to a future infused by inclusivity and social justice. 

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