Who are leading the world’s top-100 universities?

The importance of research universities to nations populations and economies is largely undisputed. Of equal interest are issues of university leadership and governance. Major changes have taken place in the sector through increased competition, and subsequently in the role of university leaders. There has been an explosion of literature in the field of university leadership, but there has been little information available about those who actually lead the world s universities, in particular the world s top research universities. This paper reports on a study that looks at the characteristics of 100 university leaders. It focuses on those running top universities because it is important to understand the actions of successful organisations. A specific question is addressed: are top universities led by top researchers? If the best universities — who arguably have the widest choice of candidates — systematically appoint top researchers as their presidents, this could be one form of evidence that, on average, better researchers may make better presidents.

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