Document Type

Journal Article


Sage Publications


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education / Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: Holt, D., Nagy, J., Cohen, L. , Campbell-Evans, G. H., Chang, P. , Macdonald, I., & McDonald, J. (2013). Leading at the Coal-face: The World as Experienced by Subject Coordinators in Australian Higher Education. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 41(2), 233-249. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. Available online here.


This article is based on nationally funded research into the role, capabilities, challenges and professional development needs of subject coordinators in Australian higher education. The second of three data collection phases involved a multi-institutional survey of staff in the role of subject coordinator with the aim of understanding the role through the experiences of those who undertake it. In particular the conceptualization of this lowest level in academe as one of ‘leadership’, and as being the first rung on the academic leadership ladder, formed the underpinning logic for data collection. Results allow for a contemporary picture of leadership responsibilities to be drawn and also highlights some of the challenges which confront staff in this role. The vast majority of staff consider themselves as demonstrating leadership, although they have varying views about how others higher in the management hierarchy understand and appreciate their role. Most see themselves as performing effectively with the key challenges they face highlighted in the article. Outcomes suggest the need to undertake substantial capacity building of leadership for new and incumbent subject coordinators in response to the ever-changing nature of the higher education environment.



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