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Creating sustained change through Advance HE's Strategic Leadership Programme

10 Aug 2023 | Fiona Lennoxsmith Fiona Lennoxsmith, Advance HE’s Lead Consultant for Leadership, Organisational Development and Research, reflects on our Strategic Leadership Programme for senior leaders in higher education.

“How can I take up my role to create lasting change in my organisation?” This is the question asked by many of the participants on our Strategic Leadership Programme (SLP). These senior leaders frequently seek out this programme because they are grappling with a strategic challenge that needs a cross-institutional gaze to solve it.

Wicked problems (that are both complex and novel) in today's rapidly evolving higher education landscape, require systems thinking and a high level of stakeholder engagement to drive positive change and foster innovation. Support from Advance HE's Strategic Leadership Programme is designed to empower leaders to face the decisions and choices they need to make in an ever-changed and often highly charged environment.

Understanding the Strategic Leadership Programme

Our Strategic Leadership Programme is a transformative, blended programme tailored for senior leaders in higher education institutions. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Advance HE is at the forefront of providing leadership development programs that cater to the unique needs of professionals in the academic sphere. The Strategic Leadership Programme is a shining example of our dedication to equipping leaders with the confidence, expertise and acumen required to successfully lead change across their organisations.

Participants are usually senior academic and/or professional services leaders (often Deans and Directors & PVCs) who have a cross-institutional remit.


SLP is structured to foster deep learning and personal growth through applied content, and active discussion. In addition to knowledge and confidence, participants come away with a strong and often long-lasting network of peers. Typically conducted over two months, the programme features a blend of coaching, interactive sessions, workshops and action learning sets. This allows for personal focus, group discussion and challenge, knowledge building and skill development.

The blended approach between face-to-face and online sessions enables a wide participation drawn from across the UK and beyond. These elements are carefully structured in a way that brings focus and vision to strategic challenges.

Participants cover the following key learning areas through coaching, peer discussion, action learning sets and workshops:

  1. Strategic Vision: exploring how to enliven a compelling vision that aligns with the institution's values and long-term objectives.
  2. Change Management: taking a systems thinking vision to effectively deliver change and empower and inspire others to work towards institutional change.
  3. Inclusive Leadership: emphasising the importance of inclusive leadership, guiding participants on how to foster a supportive and equitable environment for all.
  4. Stakeholder Engagement: enabling leaders with communication and relationship-building skills to establish meaningful connections with all their stakeholders, taking into account the wider community and students as well as academic and professional services colleagues.

Personal development aspects explore how to engage with complexity, especially in the fast-paced environment of the current systems.

Strategic models are unpacked, tested and challenged.

Implementation and stakeholder engagement skills are explicitly practiced in a workshop with actors and/or coaches.

The learning space is alive with challenge, a desire to create change and an expectation that the elephants in the room will be seen, if not tamed.

Confidence and belief

What do participants take away at the end of the programme? Importantly, most say the confidence and belief that they have the power to make changes in their institutions, and to consider where disruption is needed to challenge current systems and ways of working.

Equipped with newfound knowledge, confidence, vision and a supportive network, we see those completing the programme already having progressed the transformation they came seeking. As the higher education environment continues to evolve at a high rate, the demand for our Strategic Leadership Programme becomes ever greater.

"Fundamentally changed my awareness of toolkits available to me and increased my confidence in my ability to lead and manage change."

Prof Stuart Humphries, Dean of Research Environment and Professor of Evolutionary Biophysics, University of Lincoln

“Very educative, valuable time to reflect, share experiences and learn from a very knowledgeable and experienced team.”

Dr Charles Ameh, Professor, Head of Department of International Public Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

“I feel emboldened and inspired to be the leader that I am, not a caricature of what a good leader might be, I’m equipped to develop my leadership with strategies and the confidence to lead in my way, embodying an authentic approach to leadership that I can be both comfortable with and proud of.”

Dr Claire Harkins, Deputy Dean School of Education and Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland

Strategic Leadership Programme

Starting 8 November 2023, our Strategic Leadership Programme offers delegates the opportunity to work collaboratively to problem solve and identify practical solutions to strategic challenges within their own institutions. Find out more

Members benefit from a 25% discount on booking prices and there is an additional 10% early booking discount for bookings made before 30 September 2023 on selected programmes and events.


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