AHP Leadership in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges

Dr Vivien Gibbs1, Dr Marc Griffiths

1Uinversity Of The West Of England, Bristol, United Kingdom, 2Uinversity Of The West Of England, Bristol, United Kingdom

The aim of this research was to gain a deeper understanding of the perceptions of key stakeholders in relation to the current extent of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) in leadership roles within academia in the UK. The researchers undertook an exploration of the potential barriers, challenges and opportunities that exist for AHPs to undertake leadership roles within higher education and used the findings to offer recommendations for the future.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the number of AHP academic staff in the UK is significantly smaller than other professions such as Nursing, it is generally recognised that a lower percentage of AHPs are appointed to significant leadership roles within academia. This is particularly noticeable in posts associated with governance, policy and decision making. This project focused specifically on the reasons why this may be the case, and aimed to identify opportunities for future development models.

Purposive sampling took place to ensure a diverse sample of stakeholders, and the inclusion of the most appropriate participants with different experiences, backgrounds and roles, thereby ensuring a range of perspectives would be obtained. A total of twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the data analysed using thematic analysis in order to explore the initial findings and create core themes.

Several themes emerged from the study, the primary ones relating to lack of confidence and a lack of motivation amongst AHPs to aspire to senior leadership roles, with a preference instead to focus on gaining clinical and research expertise rather than leadership skills. In addition, fewer opportunities appear to exist for AHPs to progress into senior leadership roles, due to a number of reasons which are explored in more depth in this presentation. It was noted that AHPs probably have much to learn from our nursing colleagues in how to move into strategic leadership roles within academia.

A number of recommendations were made to ensure that AHPs attain the ambition, the confidence, the skills and the opportunities required for them to be able to move into senior leadership roles in the future.


Vivien has worked in a senior leadership position within academia for the past four years. Prior to that she has worked as a lecturer and as a clinical radiographer. she completed her PhD several years ago, and has published widely on a range of AHP related subjects.

NAHC Conferences

2007, Hobart (7th NAHC)

2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

2012, Canberra (9th NAHC)

2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

2015, Melbourne (11th NAHC)

2017, Sydney (12th NAHC)

2019, Brisbane (13th NAHC)

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Tourism & Events Queensland

© 2017 Conference Design Pty Ltd