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An exploratory study of ethical dilemmas faced by academic leaders in three Australian universities
journal contributionposted on 2012-01-01, 00:00 authored by N Cranston, L Ehrich, M Kimber, Karen StarrKaren Starr
Being an academic in universities today is characterised by change and increasing complexity in response to a multitude of factors impacting on the university sector. Among the consequences of such changes are that many academics, and academic leaders in particular, are subjected to both increasing stress and scrutiny in many of the decisions they make. Some of these decisions require critical choices that involve contestation of values (including personal, professional, institutional, and community), resulting in ethical dilemmas for the decision makers. This article reports on an exploratory study into ethical dilemmas faced by middle-level academic leaders, drawing on the results of an on-line survey distributed to relevant academics in three universities in Australia. Here, middle-level academic leaders are defined as those holding course coordination roles, locating them between senior university staff and other academics on the one hand, and students on the other hand. As a consequence, these diverse groups of staff and students potentially have an array of conflicting interests in, and expectations on, middle-level academics’ decision-making processes. The findings of the study are clear: ethical dilemmas are evident, and commonly so, for many middle-level academic leaders. While exploratory in nature, the findings of this study suggest that much more attention to ethics and ethical dilemmas is needed in our universities.