Networks and roles of Pro-Vice Chancellors: a study of the connectedness of PVCs in the 1994 group of universities

  • Colin Pilbeam

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Faced with a turbulent higher education environment senior management teams in universities seek to secure the future of their university by accessing as much information about the environment as possible, often through networks. Pro-Vice Chancellors (PVCs) are members of these teams, normally with significant responsibility for activities that are integral to the university, but very little is known about their role and the importance that connections to others might play in it. Taking a social network perspective, this thesis investigates this gap using a two stage research design. First an electronically distributed questionnaire was used to determine the connectivity between PVCs either with responsibility for research or with responsibility for teaching from the original 16 UK universities of the 1994 Group. Secondly, semistructured interviews were conducted with eight PVCs from four of these universities, to examine similarities and differences in the roles of different PVCs and the importance of connectivity for them. Network maps showed that research PVCs were cohesively linked; most were connected to at least two others, and often to many more. Conversely, PVCs with responsibility for teaching were almost wholly unconnected. Connections to other PVCs served three purposes. Occasionally they were important for personal development, otherwise they either enabled PVCs to perform her/his duties by providing information, or enhanced the performance of the university by allowing access to additional resources. It is concluded that PVCs play a boundary spanning role both internally and externally to the University. Moreover, enduring connections to other PVCs formed where opportunities existed to pursue additional resources collaboratively or when it was necessary to lobby government to protect the existing resource base from others. It was argued that these circumstances commonly occurred in the research environment but not in the teaching environment and so the observed pattern of connectivity amongst PVCs was explained.
Date of Award1 Jan 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Jamieson (Supervisor)


  • 1994 group
  • networks
  • role
  • Pro-Vice Chancellor

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