Managing Professional Development of Academic Staff to Enhance University Performance

  • Jennifer Murphy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Calls for more effective and modern teaching practices, higher research outputs, leaner administrative processes, greater community engagement, and more student-centred approaches to the business of higher education have intensified the challenges of working in a university. These challenges have added considerable complexity to the roles of academic staff, many of whom are facing increasing demands for which they are ill equipped to deal in terms of their formal education. To succeed in the highly competitive and changing environment that is higher education today, universities need to ensure that the requisite capabilities are developed in their academic staff. The key question underpinning this study is: how can the provision of professional development for academic staff be optimised to enhance university performance? The focus of the research is on identifying the ways in which higher education institutions provide formal offerings of professional development to academic staff, how they are organised to do this, who is entrusted with the task, and what are the strengths and limitations of the approaches taken. The research is informed by literature concerning higher education management, academic development, and strategic human resource management. Taking a critical realist ontological perspective, case studies of professional development provision in two Irish universities are presented. Findings reveal that while effective professional development is an espoused priority it is not a managed priority. While there is some evidence of good practice, the fragmented organisational structures in place for delivery of professional development reveal an absence of coordination and gaps in provision. The connection between professional development and organisational performance is loose. Recommendations are made on how the provision of professional development for academics can be managed to enhance university performance. A framework for designing performance-led professional development activities that aligns organisational and individual goals is proposed. An organisational structure that takes a more conscious approach to the management of the full range of professional development provision is put forward.
Date of Award25 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Jamieson (Supervisor) & Rajani Naidoo (Supervisor)


  • higher education management
  • professional development
  • academic staff
  • university performance

Cite this