Top management leadership development and induction scheme

Leadership development schemes vary from induction workshops for newly recruited academic staff to mentoring schemes for doctoral candidates, courses in project management, MBAs, job shadowing, general leadership development programmes to more established programmes in higher education. Prior research revealed that offering leadership development opportunities is closely linked to a wider culture of continuous professional development and to existing national legislative frameworks on work environment (Louisa Bunescu & Thomas Estermann, EUA).

The reasons for setting up leadership development and induction schemes can be diverse.

First, such professional development opportunities increase the level of preparedness of executive leaders at universities. Institutional induction schemes ensure continuity and a smooth handover of responsibilities.  

Second, they help acquire specific managerial (e.g. financial, legal, entrepreneurial, intercultural, international) competences while on the job and build confidence.

Third, leadership development schemes are also an opportunity for higher education leaders to learn how to better tackle crisis management situations, like the Covid-19 pandemic or influx of refugee students.

Training programmes on leadership skills are also offered to emerging leaders in higher education, including doctoral candidates in order to prepare them for the challenging roles that they might take up in the higher education sector (Louisa Bunescu & Thomas Estermann, EUA).


Improved skills and knowledge

Basic information
Categories Capacity Building of Support & Management Staff
Mobility stages Institutional setup
Delivery schedule Periodic
Importance Important to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups Management staff
Career stages of researchers 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience More than 15 years of experience
Practice setup

Universities can set up their own in-house leadership development or induction scheme or procure externally the related tailor-made or ready-to-use services from other organisations or networks, such as national rectors' conferences, professional higher education & research societies and associations, university networks and HR companies.  

The design of an internal or external induction or leadership support scheme involves the following:

  • Define the target audience (e.g. current top academic and executive leaders or aspiring leaders preparing to fulfil senior positions in the future; academic and/or managerial staff)

  • Define the objectives and the scope of the programme (leading and managing staff and teams; strategic planning; technical knowledge, e.g. in internationalisation and talent attraction, retention and support; transversal skills such as conflict resolution, effective communication, emotional intelligence and resilience)

  • Define the format and duration of the scheme (e.g. in-house or outsourced; face-to-face, blended or online)

  • Establish the training delivery and evaluation modalities (e.g. content, experts/trainers, logistical matters)

  • Identify funding sources (national or European project funding, institutional funds)

Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Project management office
  • Career development centre
Partners involved in practice setup
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • Training plan and programme designed

Universities can get professional advice on the design of their internal induction schemes or procure leadership development training services from national or European university associations, peers from other institutions (both domestic and abroad), and external consultants and companies.

Practice delivery

The delivery of the induction scheme involves the selection of participants and the promotion of the programme among them. It is highly important to perform the evaluation of the programme based on how the participants experienced the programme; what they have learnt; how they apply what has been learnt.

HR departments can use evaluation and feedback from participants as input for the improvement and further consolidation of the leadership development schemes. Feedback can also be used to address issues through different channels, such as psychosocial wellbeing.

Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Actors involved in practice delivery
  • HR Department
  • Career development centre
Partners involved in practice delivery
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of trainings implemented annually
  • Number of researchers assisted annually
  • Average satisfaction rate

Universities can jointly design or procure leadership development or induction schemes to share costs and resources.

Examples of practice

The Dean School

The Dean School is a leadership development programme for deans of university and university colleges who are new to the role of dean. An important criterion for becoming a participant is not only to exert leadership, but also to encourage leadership in others. Where this criterion is met, also managers of departments and institutes are welcome to apply to the programme.

The programme was revitalised in 2019, since then being more focused on the international dimension of HE and on strategic management.

Institutional transformation and leadership development at universities

This report contains a list of various leadership development schemes offered by higher education institutions, national rectors' conferences and professional associations in Europe.

Governance of the University in the 21st Century

This programme helps the participants to jointly address the challenges of managing the university in the 21st century by tackling them with experienced administrators and experts. The  programme offers current (inter)national and scientific insights into the most important trends in higher education, policy, governance and leadership. By focusing on the level of strategic leadership, this programme complements the internal offerings at many Dutch universities that focus more on the level of personal leadership and team management.