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Today, higher education institutions are tasked with multiple and challenging roles. They accommodate evolving student expectations, address changing labour market needs and sustainability pressures, and face unexpected challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. In this demanding context, the NEWLEAD project aims to build the capacity of university leaders in steering change and in addressing new priorities on the institutional transformation agenda.

NEWLEAD is led by the University Ramon Llull (URL) in Barcelona, in partnership with a diverse consortium including EUA.

NEWLEAD is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission, as a Strategic Partnership for Higher Education. The project will run until September 2023.

For further information, please contact You can also find us on Twitter at #unileaders_eu.


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NEWLEAD builds on a series of previous projects and initiatives in governance, capacity building and institutional transformation, which the project partners conducted or participated in.

Between 2015 and 2018, EUA led the EU-funded USTREAM project, which focused on efficiency (including through strategic governance), effectiveness and value for money at universities, while exploring the role of institutional leadership. Research conducted within the USTREAM project showed that to promote change, leaders must have access to the capabilities and tools needed to achieve success. This process of empowerment becomes essential for capacity building at both institutional and individual levels, being a pre-requisite for effective and successful change management at universities.

Moreover, previous products released by EUA include toolkits for university leaders and managers on governance models, human resources and financial management, which were designed to support structural reform processes and to enhance the quality and relevance of higher education systems.

The main project objectives are:

  • equip universities and their leaders to address policy priorities and challenges;
  • enable leaders and senior managers to successfully steer complex institutional transformation agendas.

To achieve this, a peer-learning approach will be used throughout the project. This will facilitate an exchange of experience and practices among the participants, while bridging the gap between global, national and institutional needs. NEWLEAD results will also be derived from a mapping of institutional- and system-level approaches to leadership development and university transformation, which is planned for the first stage of the project implementation. Moreover, a novel methodological framework will be developed to address, in a holistic way, leadership capacity building and change management topics in higher education.

The NEWLEAD project will address institutional leadership development through the lenses of several transversal topics, such as (but not limited to):

  • female leadership in higher education
  • equity, diversity and social inclusion
  • sustainability
  • collaboration and engagement with ecosystems
  • evolving labour market needs
  • efficiency and effectiveness
  • service to society
  • resilience
  • effective governance

Phase 1: Mapping institutional and system approaches to leadership support/development and capacity building

1st semester 2021

Phase 2: Peer learning and exchange among partners and beyond

2nd semester 2021-1st semester 2022

Phase 3: Developing a framework to support institutions’ strategic and holistic approach to designing leadership development

 2nd semester 2022 – 1nd semester 2023

Main results:

  • Methodological report on core principles, priorities and processes of change and crisis management in higher education 




Main results:

  • Innovative guidance materials exploring the topic of capacity building for institutional leadership, as well as thematic priorities
  • Focus groups for institutional leaders and senior managers

Main results:

  • Institutional transformation and leadership case studies
  • Report on leadership and institutional transformation to benefit institutions in their efforts to build capacity of their leaders and senior managers


University leaders, such as rectors, vice-rectors and deans, as well as senior managers, including heads of administration and finance and human resources, will be interested in the NEWLEAD project activities and outcomes. Participation in the focus groups and various other activities will be possible through open calls, which will be featured on this project webpage.

At EUA, capacity building for university leadership with the purpose of institutional transformation is also addressed via two other ongoing initiatives, namely:

  • In the field of learning and teaching in higher education, the EU-funded LOTUS project runs a Leadership Development Programme for institutional leaders
  • In the field of digitalisation, EUA is organising three thematic peer groups in 2021, offering an opportunity for European higher education institutions to exchange with colleagues about their strategic approaches to digitally enhanced learning and teaching.

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