Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Colleges in Ontario face many challenges that threaten their future sustainability including a decline in the core 17 to 24 year old feeder group and growing limitations on provincial government funding (Usher, 2013). To generate adequate revenue to survive and thrive, many are embracing competitive approaches intended to grow enrolment. While the provincial government allows and has in fact rewarded competition (i.e. through additional growth funding), it has attempted to moderate the unintended consequences of wholesale marketization through regulation and mandated performance relative to student access and quality (Kirby, 2011). Against this Ontario colleges’ quasi-market context, Presidents and Senior Vice-Presidents Academic (SVPAs) are challenged to adopt leadership behaviours that most effectively support the concurrent achievement of the joint outcomes of enrolment growth, quality and access in their organization. Indeed, a large number of Presidents and their most senior team members may be overly focused on operational tactics and lack the interest, ability or courage to provide a vision, introduce key strategic priorities, and effectively execute on these priorities within their organization (Paul, 2011; Neumann & Neumann, 2000). In this study I attempted to understand the strategic behaviours and actions of President and Senior Vice-President Academic teams at high-performing Ontario colleges, between 2011 and 2014, where high-performing was defined as consistently high ratings on objective systemlevel measures of enrolment growth, quality and access taken together. I designed a qualitative, multi-case study design in which each President and Senior Vice-President Academic team was treated as a case. Presidents and Senior Vice-Presidents Academic were interviewed independently using the same question frame. Cross-case analysis was conducted that focused ii on similarities rather than differences across the cases (Stake, 2006). This approach was used to better understand what best practices may be generalizable to senior college leaders elsewhere, as well as to keep the identity of participants confidential. Out of this study, a preliminary working model of strategic leadership has emerged which ought to be further tested and refined.