The middle manager’s role and professional development needs in Lao higher education

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Syharath, Saengaloun
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Master of Educational Leadership and Management
Unitec Institute of Technology
Howse, Jo
Collins, Jennifer
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Lao education
professional development
middle managers
higher education
Syharath, S. (2012). The middle manager’s role and professional development needs in Lao higher education. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
This thesis examines institutional middle managers in Lao higher education who are vital to the quality of teaching and learning as a large amount of responsibility for the leadership and management of institutional practice is delegated to the middle managers. They have also become a significant force in the higher education context as their expertise and knowledge are widely utilised as the key elements to improve staff and student performance. The middle manager’s role is becoming increasingly important and more demanding because of the fact that today’s higher education institutions are functioning in a more competitive environment than ever before. The literature on higher education seems to ignore the responsibilities of the role of middle managers. Consequently, the professional development activities which develop middle managers for their role are not recognised; although, middle managers not only are now being overloaded with the teaching and administrative tasks, but also lack clarity for their role and expectations. This qualitative study investigated the perceptions of senior managers and middle managers in relation to the middle manager’s role, the challenges and the professional development needs. Two data gathering methods were employed as six senior managers from three faculties in one Lao higher education institution were interviewed while at the same time thirty middle managers were surveyed with a questionnaire. The findings of this research showed not only many of the difficulties that middle managers encountered, but also the demands and complexities of the middle manager’s role. The findings of this research also indicated that the middle manager’s role was not clearly defined in the participating faculties; even though, their contribution was becoming increasingly important. Consequently, this lack of clarity caused problems for middle managers in understanding and developing for the role. At the same time, a lack of time internally to provide development opportunities and limited provision by external providers were identified as issues for middle managers. The study highlighted that middle managers in higher education were ill-prepared and required support in order to fulfil their dual role of teaching and managing. Hence, there was a need for an investment in professional development at the middle management level if higher education faculties wanted to survive in today’s higher education competitive environment.
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