Vignette 1: Leadership

Anna: "The leadership from our university was exemplary at the initial planning stage some years ago. The senior management made the decision to set up a language and learning unit and to devolve to that area responsibility for setting up and implementing a language development strategy across the whole university. They appointed staff with a sound theoretical understanding of language to research and develop programs. They were able to secure external competitive funding, and the strategies that were developed were taken up by other universities, which was one measure of success. Another was the fact that the program received multiple awards. I attribute the overall success of the approach to the confidence of the positional leaders in their team, and the strong scholarship of the leaders who developed and implemented the program."

Simon: "Our strategy has suffered from a lack of consistent leadership. Initially the driver was our Office of Teaching and Learning supervised by the DVC, but changes in personnel led to a drop of interest in student language development at senior levels. Two years ago a review was commissioned, but this has still not been completed, and recently carriage of the review has been passed to another area of the university. In the meantime, we seem to be increasing the number of stakeholders offering various language development services without any oversight or strategic direction – including the library, the careers office and the ELICOS centre."

Kim: "At first we had very strong leadership at DVC level. An overall strategy was developed and approved through Academic Board and was well on the way to being implemented. After 18 months, the DVC left. Her replacement took the view that the university was not in the business of language development but of gatekeeping at entry. Just about every initiative was wound down and the language and learning unit became almost irrelevant. Luckily, after two years that DVC also left and we are now beginning to pick up the pieces, but it really emphasised for me how important it is to have role continuity, commitment, vision and an understanding of language development issues at senior management level."