New research reveals higher education pathways to leadership

1 June 2015

Our new study finds that a degree in a social science and international study/work experience are the most commonly shared characteristics of professional leaders around the world.

As many as 46 per cent of those surveyed have some experience of education or work outside of their home country. 

This research, conducted by the British Council, in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs, surveyed 1,709 current professional leaders with higher education qualifications from 30 countries, and across sectors. The aim of the research was to reveal the higher education backgrounds of professional leaders around the world, and examine how direct learning and other higher education experiences had affected their careers. 

Launched today at our Going Global 2015 conference, the study also found that extra-curricular and networking opportunities afforded by higher education are just as valuable as direct learning.

Paul Smith, British Council Director in the US, said “Quality leadership, and leadership potential, is at a premium in navigating the challenges and fractures of a world of increasing risk and opportunity. Our research shows a clear need for leaders who have critical analytical and interpretative skills as well as professional knowledge, leaders who can make decisions based on understanding of cultural context and human insight, and leaders who are international in their outlook and, increasingly, in their learning experience. Knowledge and aptitude in the humanities, the social sciences and STEM are all essential to grow trustworthy global leadership. Academics need to re-converge to produce leaders who can discover holistic solutions to humanly complex problems.”

Read our full press release.

Go to the research.

Go to the conference session on Preparing leaders: an interdisciplinary approach.