“Academia is Losing its Appeal”: The Role of Heads of Departments and Senior Colleagues in Supporting Early Career Academic Staff Retention, Success and Satisfaction

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


Supportive leadership from heads of departments and senior colleagues is crucial for the retention and success of early career academics. Senior colleagues, too, have a significant influence on early career academics’ working lives. Leaders and managers of academics need to be familiar with the resources, support and professional development opportunities available to early career academics and to give clear messages about expectations and requirements. At the same time, they need to recognise the academic’s own agency and provide appropriate support for an individualised approach to academic career development. This showcase presentation offers findings from a national research project on the experiences of early career academics in New Zealand universities. The project gathered survey data from 538 early career academics (a response rate of nearly 50%) and over 100 managers at all eight New Zealand universities. It also included interviews with successful academics at all eight universities and focus groups with managers and academics at four universities. Findings reveal that the head of department and senior colleagues are very important to early career academic success and satisfaction. Without the backing of a supportive head of department, academics just starting out are less likely to be promoted quickly, will likely be less satisfied with their working conditions, and will find it harder to balance their home and work lives. The presentation will also share resources that have been developed from the project to help leaders who are working with early career academics, and will ask participants to share their own thoughts on supporting new academic colleagues effectively.

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