Kinship and Collegiality: An exploration of the underpinning characteristics of external partnerships at a University Education Department

David Littlefair, Joanne Clifford Swan, Karen Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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External partnerships are crucial to the functioning of a university education department. The purpose of this paper is to explore the underpinning characteristics of such partnerships. It examines different types of partnerships from those in initial teacher education, to continuing professional development to international. Evidence-based data are gathered from both external partners and university staff who deal with partnership. Softer skills and intellectual kingship are identified as the fundamental drivers of partnership and the subsequent implications for universities are examined.

In order to explore the nature of these partnerships, a qualitative approach was essential as the focus was in the motives and perspectives of the authors’ partners, the authors’ colleagues and the university as a corporate entity. To this end, questionnaires were designed for use with a broad range of teacher education partners. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with university-based colleagues involved in a range of these partnership activities.

The institutional reputation on its own does not appear to be the main driver for partnership and as such, the partner bases their decisions and judgements upon the relationship and discussions with the link person they deal with. In turn, those key actors in the university education department also see the wider university as an inhibitor and constraint upon partnership but maintain their relationships by drawing on autonomous forms of professionalism. Thus, intellectual kinship, collegiality and common goals may be argued as key to generating successful external relationships.

Practical implications
It is important to note that a business relationship which relies on an individual is fragile; people move, become ill and change roles. Clear strategies are essential for succession planning across all such partnerships in an institution, if they are to avoid the potential financial and reputational repercussions arising from unplanned change.

This study highlights the significance of effective communication between the department establishing the partnership and those responsible for broader managerial and administrative systems in the institution, as well as the potential importance of shared values across departments in respect of supporting and maintaining international partnerships. Further, institutions should recognise the fundamental importance of the link person, in terms of the boundary-spanning nature of the role, the importance to that role of intellectual kinship and the potential this has for the development of new or expanded relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Research Journal
Issue number4
Early online date16 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019


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