Research on leadership

The development of advanced leadership capabilities among rising international education professionals is important to both the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) and the EAIE. This research sought to identify the generic and specific leadership capabilities required by the future generation of international education leaders in Australia and Europe. 

Status: Finalised
Period: 2012–2014

The study

Leadership training in our field is frequently based on senior professionals’ experiences setting up and shaping internationalisation from the bottom up.For the next generation, the starting point is quite different. Succession planning and ‘handing on’ are urgent. This two-phase Delphi study identifed the critical capabilities needs of the next generation of international education leaders.

A two-phase Delphi methodology was adopted and a first phase online questionnaire developed. This was based on a conceptual framework which identifies eight ‘competing’ leadership roles: facilitator, mentor, innovator, broker, director, producer, monitor and coordinator. Phase 2 was conducted in light of the findings from Phase 1. Phase 2 involved semi-structured interviews with selected respondents from Phase 1, as well as a number of other senior international education professionals and academic staff in Australia and Europe.

The results

Phase 1 outcomes

  • Respondents were largely in agreement over the significance of the different leadership roles in the project
  • Both European and Australian respondents viewed the roles of ‘facilitator’ (who encourages the expression of opinions, seeks consensus and negotiates compromise) and ‘mentor’ (who is aware of individual needs, listens actively, is fair, supports legitimate requests and attempts to facilitate the development of individuals) as the most dominant – the ‘facilitator’ remained the most prominent
  • Both European and Australian respondents found the primary benefits of internationalisation to be the positive impact on societies in terms of creating mutual understanding and helping resolve global issues, as well as enhanced student skills and knowledge

Phase 2 outcomes

  • Both European and Australian respondents found internationalisation mainstreaming to have implications for the roles and skills of leaders
  • European respondents identified the same leadership roles as in Phase 1 as most crucial
  • Australian respondents contradicted findings of Phase 1, identifying 'innovator' and 'broker' roles as most crucial
  • Australian respondents emphasised relationship management, business skills and cooperation with academics
  • European rerspondents emphasised change management capabilities, effective communication, data collection and analytical skills
  • Australians thought the most crucial obstacles were competing priorities, lip service and a perceived lack of commitment
  • Europeans agreed, but focused on the attitude of academic staff and lack of evidence of the benefits of internationalisation
  • Both European and Australian respondents concluded that challenges and professional skill needs identified in the survey require professional development opportunities tailored to different levels of leadership 
  • Joint training for academics and administrators was seen as key to improve the collaboration between the two groups
  • Peer learning, mentoring, coaching and short trainings to improve specific skills were suggested for professional development
  • ​Both agreed on the need to develop innovation and entrepreneurial skills

Project stakeholders


  • The EAIE
  • IVA
  • TiasNimbas Business School (Tilburg University in the Netherlands)


  • IEAA
  • L.H. Martin Institute (University of Melbourne, Australia)