Female Heads of Department in Saudi Higher Education: Role, Challenges and Leadership Development

نوع عمل المنشور: 
PhD Thesis
مدينة النشر: 
University of Warwick /Centre for Education Studies
مستخلص المنشور: 

This study therefore aimed to analyse the perceptions of female HoDs, in a female-only university, regarding their roles. More specifically, it sought to explore HoDs most important tasks and the key challenges they encounter. The research also aimed to investigate what constitutes effective leadership development for this group. A mixed-methods approach was employed to implement this investigation.  In the first phase, data were gathered from 36 HoDs through an online questionnaire; and in the second phase, individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 HoDs who had completed the questionnaire


The role of HoD was perceived to be multifaceted with participants emphasising that they played multiple simultaneous roles as managers, leaders, representatives and academics. However, the study revealed a mismatch between the tasks that HoDs believed to be important aspects of their role and what they actually did in practice. HoDs were immersed in routine daily operational tasks rather than participating in strategic leadership. The centralised decision-making system limits the ability of HoDs to effectively lead their departments due to having to consult with such an extensive organisational hierarchy.

The study identified several key challenges that HoDs encountered such as work overload, managing people, lack of power and authority, and being stuck in the middle. The findings also showed that there is no single effective approach to leadership development. Rather, this can happen at three different but complementary levels: personal, departmental, and organisational. Therefore, the study has proposed a model for leadership development which contains a mixture of effective strategies to develop leadership skills. The study also presents a picture of what leadership looks like at a female-only university, which should be of value to policy makers in HE in Saudi Arabia in their efforts towards empowering women.