An exploration of governance and management in high performing private training establishments in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Business Studies (Management) at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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It has been recognised that governance and management have a far-reaching impact in different spheres of society. Failures in governance and their damaging consequences as well as current challenges on the global scene have led to an increasing focus on governance and management, including in higher education. This is true in New Zealand where the government’s Tertiary Education Strategy demonstrates a commitment to improving strategic capacity and leadership at both governance and management levels in tertiary education organisations (Edwards, 2003). The aim of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes good governance and management practice in New Zealand private tertiary education. Underpinned by a pragmatist epistemology which emphasises the utility of research to solve practical real-world problems, the study offers insights and implications for practice that will contribute to lifting the quality and credibility of the sector. Practice theory which suggests that practices are the basic units of analysis to understand organisational phenomena (Nicolini, 2012) serves as the theoretical framework supporting the study. An empirical enquiry approach which focuses on the everyday activity of organising (Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011) is utilised to investigate practice. The findings of this research are informed by a case study of a high performing private training establishment (PTE), qualitative interviews with New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Evaluators as expert informants experienced in assessing the performance of tertiary education providers, and analysis of relevant documents. The analysis of findings follows the conceptualisation of practice-as-entity, i.e. practice is comprised of three elements – competence, materiality and meaning (Shove et al., 2012). Four key themes emerged from the findings, representing the key features of high performing PTEs: being driven by a purpose beyond profit, strong leadership, being reflective, and valuing staff. Sub-themes embody the governance and management practices associated with these key features: having a student-centric mission, vision, values; strong community engagement; active and knowledgeable governance; competent academic leadership; self-assessment; robust data management leading to continuous improvements; and motivating staff. Based on these findings, the study proffers a number of insights, practical implications, and recommendations relevant to practitioners in the sector. The recommendations are presented as an integrated leverage system that creates an advantage for a PTE and useful for attaining superior performance. The system depicts how a PTE’s leadership operates around organisational purpose (the fulcrum) by applying its energies through three leadership handles to provide the organisational output. This creates leverage similar to how a mechanical lever on a fulcrum works. The leadership handles are ‘stakeholder plus’ governance structure, distributed academic leadership and quality management, and participative people management.