Book Reviews

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  • 1 University of Louisville, USA
  • 2 Aarhus University, Denmark

Janet Haddock-Fraser, Peter Rands and Stephen Scoffham (2018), Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury, 221pp., ISBN: 978-1-350-00612-6

Sónia Cardoso, Orlanda Tavares, Cristina Sin and Teresa Carvalho (eds) (2020), Structural and Institutional Transformations in Doctoral Education: Social, Political and Student Expectations. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 410pp., ISBN: 978-3-030-38045-8

Janet Haddock-Fraser, Peter Rands and Stephen Scoffham (2018), Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury, 221pp., ISBN: 978-1-350-00612-6

Scholars have called for a ‘complete paradigm shift’ for notoriously slow-moving institutions of higher education if they are to effectively educate students to work for global sustainability (2). In light of this elusive task of upending higher education for sustainability, Haddock-Fraser, Rands, and Scoffham, postsecondary leaders and scholars of sustainability in the United Kingdom, have crafted this book to provide insight for leaders of sustainability initiatives in higher education seeking pragmatic, theoretically informed guidance for leading the needed paradigm shift in higher education. The book includes four major sections organised thematically by content, which provide conceptual underpinnings (Part A), theoretical organisational frameworks (Part B), empirical findings (Part C) and case studies (Part D) related to leading efforts for sustainability in higher education.

In the first two sections of the book, the authors define the three key concepts aptly featured in the title: leadership, sustainability and higher education. In the first section, they outline theories and frameworks that showcase key aspects of both leadership, especially as it relates to sustainability, and the concept of sustainability itself, including how the movement for sustainability has developed in higher education. They also describe the unique context of higher education, including its organisational structures, cultures of decision-making and shifting roles in society over time. In the second section of the book, the authors outline organisational and decision-making theories that can contribute to the work of sustainability, especially within postsecondary institutions.

In the third section of the book, the scholars reveal findings from their own study of thirty-four sustainability leaders in postsecondary institutions in the United Kingdom. They outline where chief officers for sustainability exist within different institutions, the roles they play and the traits they claim as important. The authors also provide insight into unique team-oriented approaches to leading sustainability, from working groups to committees to task forces, and describe internal and external actions required of sustainability leaders. Finally, the book concludes with case studies from four institutions around the world and the ways in which sustainability has been enacted within specific contexts.

While the book is organised around conceptual areas, offering a buffet of theoretical and conceptual options from which sustainability leaders may choose, the book might be most helpful if viewed through the ways in which aspects of its chapters can together contribute to the solution of ‘wicked problems’ associated with leadership for sustainability in higher education (73). The book implies some of the key big-picture tensions at play for those leading sustainability efforts in the unique contexts of higher education and ways to approach them. One tension is the at-times overwhelming contextual vagueness of sustainability discussed in Part A. The chapter on decision-making frameworks and models (Part B) offers specific advice to leaders who need language and tools to conceptualise, define the value of and measure the vague concept of sustainability within institutions that must meet a bottom line such that efforts do not flounder under amorphous, idealistic goals. Examples such as the Five Capitals Model, which labels various forms of capital, such as human and natural capital, provide possible ways to demarcate and measure the value of sustainability. A case study in the final section (Part D) showcases the implementation of one such model.

A second tension involves the nature of leading in higher education where institutions have increasingly hierarchical, bureaucratic structures alongside academic systems of self-governance that eschew top-down mandates. The authors’ review of leadership theory (Part A) and their own empirical findings (Part C) provide insight into unique qualities that a leader must have in postsecondary institutions, and their review of management processes and structures (Part B) – such as the Core Business Integration for Sustainability (CBI-S) Model, which illuminates how to involve non-hierarchical groups within managerial structures – provides a framework for implementing collegial infrastructures within hierarchical organisations. Additionally, one case study in the book (Part D) describes an approach to involving both bureaucratic and academic organisational infrastructures in higher education in the promotion of sustainability.

A third tension involves the massification and marketisation of higher education alongside decreasing public funding, which can detract from the mission of postsecondary education to serve a public good, including work for sustainability. In response to the competing demands of higher education, the authors outline the theory of the ecological university, which is theorised as a simultaneously authentic and responsible university that is responsive to both forces. The authors note that ignoring market forces will likely yield few results in what has become the business of higher education.

In the genre of literature describing sustainability efforts in higher education, this is a unique guide that provides not only conceptual development and practical examples but also organisational theory. While difficult to provide a step-by-step guide to implementing leadership for sustainability in higher education, Haddock-Fraser, Rands and Scoffham provide a useful collection of theories and data to support the important work of shifting higher education towards work for sustainability. The book seeks the balance necessary for implementing an idealistic concept and goal within the business-like institutional manoeuvrings of higher education. While organised conceptually by topic, the book provides room for the reader to cohesively tie each concept together in ways that are most beneficial for unique contexts. Readers, therefore, might approach the book with a question in hand and consider ways in which the various theories, frameworks and data may answer their specific questions related to the pursuit of leading a paradigm shift towards sustainability in higher education.

Jessica Belue Buckley

University of Louisville

Sónia Cardoso, Orlanda Tavares, Cristina Sin and Teresa Carvalho (eds) (2020), Structural and Institutional Transformations in Doctoral Education: Social, Political and Student Expectations. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 410pp., ISBN: 978-3-030-38045-8

The edited volume provides to the literature a rare and much-needed cross-context perspective on doctoral education. One the one hand, it provides a cross-context perspective within institutions linking student experiences, initiatives around doctoral supervision, graduate school management and institutional leadership. Also, the book provides a cross-context perspective beyond universities, linking institutional realities with wider social and societal concerns, national and geopolitical agendas and global drivers in doctoral education.

The premise of the book's overarching argument is that higher and doctoral education have undergone deep changes due to the neoliberal policies and their institutional and educational implications, including reduction in public funding, the emergence of the knowledge society and economy, and growing demands for accountability. Such changes have led to a massification and diversification of the student body and a wide, and sometimes conflicting, range of demands for what doctoral education should aim at and for what careers it should prepare doctoral students. With an increasing coupling of doctoral education with professional domains, job market contexts and a skills-based curriculum, doctoral students experience confusion and uncertainty about the purpose and meaning of doctoral research and the PhD.

The volume is divided into three main parts. The first part of the book addresses the macro level, namely the structural changes in doctoral education on the national and international levels in relation to governmental innovation agendas, globalisation, quality assurance and policies on mental health and well-being. The second part of the book addresses the meso level and explores the institutional adjustments induced by structural transformations. The meso level includes changes in institutional infrastructure, organisational characteristics of graduate schools and changes in the understanding of institutional leadership in neoliberal policy contexts. The third part of the book addresses the micro level reflected in the doctoral candidates’ experiences, motivations and expectations. The chapters here focus on academic careers outside academia, the doctoral candidates’ own perceptions of skills acquired and their usefulness for future careers, and discussions of the added value of the PhD. In the following, I mention four chapters in particular, which I selected from the three parts of the book.

In Part 1, Rosemary Deem's chapter, titled ‘Rethinking doctoral education: University purposes, academic cultures, mental health and the public good’, argues that the conflict often reported in doctoral education is linked to a deeper uncertainty in relation to the role and purpose of the PhD and doctoral education in our societies. Deem's argument takes a very interesting turn when she argues that doctoral education should be seen not, passively, as a public good to be obtained as a commodity. Instead, doctoral education should be understood as an active force for public good. This other approach Deem terms a ‘public sociology for doctoral education’, which links doctoral education to citizenship through participation in societal and cultural issues through research.

In Part 2, Ruth Neumann's chapter, titled ‘Leadership and institutional change in doctoral education in a neoliberal policy context’, examines the role and influence of leadership in establishing institutional change at the doctoral and research levels within highly competitive and corporatised environments. Neumann argues, very importantly, that more focus and attention should be given to what she terms the ‘institutional–faculty and the faculty–departmental nexus’. The opportunity for building stronger formal structures around, and informal communities within, doctoral education lies at the heart of this across-level connection and cohesion. Neumann shows the importance of a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches to ensure the inclusion of multiple views and experiences, and she argues that proactive leadership, strong communication and co-ownership across institutional levels are essential.

In Part 3, Lynn McAlpine's chapter, titled ‘Views on the usefulness of the PhD outside academia: What do we know and need to know?’, argues that we need different understandings of doctoral students’ non-academic careers after the PhD. McAlpine argues that there is a lack of connections between the universities and possible external employers, who may not know exactly in what ways PhD holders may contribute with added value to the work context. McAlpine suggests that the narrow focus on instrumental skills and competences is supplemented with the life-narrative of the individual researcher to ensure personal contact between graduates and potential employers. Post-PhD careers do not take shape after the PhD degree has been obtained but are being formed already when the individual doctoral student begins his/her PhD trajectory.

Also in Part 3, Corina Balaban's chapter, titled ‘Diversifying the missions and expectations of doctoral education: Are we losing the distinctive “added value” of the PhD?’, argues that, because of the desire to boost employability beyond academia, universities risk losing the unique added value of the PhD degree. Based on her study, Balaban recommends managing expectations in regard to different types of doctorates suited to different purposes, and that we do not aim to transform all PhDs into professional doctorates as the only way forward. Balaban's highly timely and relevant study encourages cross-sector reflection and discussion between the policy community, institutional leaders, research environments and external stakeholders (industry amongst others) regarding how to strengthen cohesion within, and to maintain the added value of, the PhD degree and doctoral education while designing them for different academic and non-academic careers.

Despite the volume's impressive reach in viewpoints and perspectives, I miss the voices from within the disciplines themselves – doctoral supervisors and research leaders – as they influence a very great deal the formation of the researcher communities and the personal growth of doctoral students. The focus of the volume is, and intentionally so, on the policy-making and implications for the institutional structure of graduate schools and PhD programmes. There is less focus on informal learning, community-building and the understanding of researcher formation. Also, it would have been interesting, with such a great range of perspectives, to have the editors entering into dialogue about, or commenting on, the different parts of the volume in an on-going manner – though, they do offer a nice summary and reflection at the closing of the book. Overall, the volume is highly important and valuable in its merits, as it targets several readerships both within universities (leaders, programme directors, supervisors and students) and beyond (future employers and even academic unions). I can highly recommend the volume and would very much like to see it becoming a central part in the discussions around the future of doctoral education and the PhD in the years to come.

Søren S. E. Bengtsen

Aarhus University

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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