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Guest talk

Prof. em. Dr. Sandra Acker & Prof. Dr. Anne Wagner

'Yes, But Not That Kind of Leader'

Women heading research projects in the Canadian academy talk about their work

Portrait photo of Prof. em. Dr. Sandra Acker © Sandra Acker​/​private
Prof. em. Dr. Sandra Acker (University of Toronto, Canada)
Portrait photo of Prof. Dr. Anne Wagner © Anne Wagner​/​private
Prof. Dr. Anne Wagner (Nipissing University, Canada)

Conducting research, especially with external funding, has become an expanded and intensified responsibility for academics in the past few decades, along with heightened expectations for accountability and productivity. Academics heading research projects have heavy responsibilities but are often overlooked in discussions of leadership in higher education. 

This presentation is based on data gathered as part of a multi-year project entitled Academic researchers in challenging times, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (see The project’s overall aim is to explore the social production of research in the province of Ontario, Canada. Over several years we have analyzed relevant policy documents and interviewed research administrators. In 2019–2020 we conducted 27 semi-structured, qualitative interviews with academics in education, geography, social work, and sociology in a varied selection of universities. Participants were selected based on their substantial records of receiving external funding and their engagement with social justice research topics.

For various reasons, most of the academic participants (24) were women. The study allowed us to move beyond conventional understandings of university leadership based on hierarchical structures, including the many discussions of 'the missing women at the top', and to consider alternative forms of leadership such as being a principal investigator for a research project. Not all of the women regarded themselves as leaders, often preferring other conceptualizations such as coach or 'the most responsible person'. Results suggest a tension between expressions of leadership that are consistent with the logistics of neoliberal individualism and approaches that stress collaboration, community, and caring.

Sandra Acker is Professor Emerita in the Department of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. Her research interests lie in changes in academic work, the social production of academic research, gender and academe, women academics in leadership positions, experiences of doctoral students, and university tenure and other evaluative practices. She has published widely on gender and education, teachers' work and higher education.

Anne Wagner is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work, Nipissing University, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests include critical approaches to higher education, neo-liberalism in academia and critical pedagogies, with a particular interest in how identity influences learning in the classroom. Anne's interests also encompass social work practice and she is currently involved in a project exploring the value of a peer support model for women in rural areas who have experienced sexual violence.

Sandra and Anne are colleagues on the project Academic Researchers in Challenging Times (, together with Caitlin Campisi, Pushpa Hamal, Michelle K. McGinn and Marie Vander Kloet.

Wednesday,  25 November 2020, 4.00–5.30 p.m. | Online
Center for Higher Education (zhb)
Professorship of Higher Education


Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.


TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".


The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.


The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.


Interactive map

The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Campus Lageplan Zum Lageplan