School leadership, management, and governance in complex contexts: Perspectives from the Nordic countries

Submission deadline date: 30 September 2024


There is a global trend towards decentralised and marked-adopted school systems (Pont, 2020). The Nordic education systems exhibit a unique blend of overarching welfare state provisions and local autonomy (Pedersen & Kuhnle, 2017; Prøitz & Aasen, 2017). This combination results in intricate governance chains and tensions within the education system between centralised oversight to ensure equal access and opportunities for all students, aligning with the Nordic ethos of equitable education (Blossing et al., 2014), and local self-determination to address the diverse needs of individual communities within their specific contexts (Jumani & Malik, 2017; Thompson et al., 2021). This tension between centralised control and local autonomy remains a pivotal question for educational research policy in general (Parcerisa et al., 2022) and in the Nordic countries in particular (Nordholm & Adolfsson, 2024).

While the Nordic countries represent a unique context of state-funded education systems with universal rights and free access, they also exemplify contrasting approaches to marketisation and decentralisation. For example, Sweden has embraced extensive marketisation affecting educational provision and access (Dahlstedt & Fejes, 2019; Lundahl et al., 2013; Pettersson et al., 2017), while Finland has maintained tight control over market influences (Niemi, 2016; Sahlberg, 2021; Uljens et al., 2016). Norway has also upheld restrictive private school policies but has recently seen a gradual increase in the number of privately enrolled students (Dieudé, 2021; Thuen & Volckmar, 2020). At the same time, international research highlights the impact of educational leadership and the pathways of school leadership on educational outcomes (Leithwood et al., 2019), educational equity (Poekert et al., 2020), and teacher retention (Nguyen et al., 2023).

This special issue calls for research exploring how education leaders at different levels navigate competing demands within transformed governance and management systems in the Nordic countries. Given the divergence in policy, we welcome research that explores how different approaches have unfolded and their consequences and effects on, e.g., educational outcomes and quality, teacher retention, educational equity, and social cohesion. We also encourage comparative studies across the Nordic countries or with other national contexts that can provide comparative insights.

Addressing these areas will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of educational leadership and management in the Nordic countries and support ongoing efforts to improve educational outcomes for all students. In addition, by analysing the experiences of Nordic countries, insights can be gained into the complexities of marketisation and decentralisation as a global educational phenomenon and its implications for policy and practice.

We welcome empirical research with various methodological, theoretical and empirical viewpoints, including historical and conceptual perspectives at all school levels in the Nordic countries and beyond on topics related (but not limited) to:

List of topic areas

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Governance
  • Organisation
  • Outcomes
  • Equity

Submissions Information

If you wish to submit a paper, kindly send an extended abstract to [email protected] by 15th May, 2024. The abstract should adhere to the following format:

  • Title
  • Author(s): Include affiliations and email addresses.
  • Keywords: 3 to 5 keywords relevant to your paper.
  • Description of research questions, theoretical framework, methods, expected findings and references within 1300 words.

Feedback on abstracts and a green light to develop full papers will be communicated by 31st May, 2024. All papers must undergo the journal's double-blind review process.

Full paper submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. The submission opens on 1st June and closes on 30th September, 2024.

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.

Author guidelines must be strictly followed.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "Please select the issue you are submitting to".

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Closing date for abstract submission: 15th May, 2024

Email for submissions: [email protected]

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 1st June, 2024

Closing date for manuscripts submission: 30th September, 2024


Blossing, U., Imsen, G., & Moos, L. (Eds.). (2014). The Nordic Education Model: ‘A School for All’ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy. Springer Netherlands.
Dahlstedt, M., & Fejes, A. (2019). Neoliberalism and Market Forces in Education: Lessons from Sweden. Routledge.
Dieudé, A. (2021). Legitimizing private school policy within a political divide: The role of international references. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 7(2), 78–90.
Jumani, N. B., & Malik, S. (2017). Promoting Teachers’ Leadership Through Autonomy and Accountability. In I. H. Amzat & N. P. Valdez (Eds.), Teacher Empowerment Toward Professional Development and Practices: Perspectives Across Borders (pp. 21–41). Springer.
Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2019). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited. School Leadership and Management.
Lundahl, L., Arreman, I. E., Holm, A.-S., & Lundström, U. (2013). Educational marketization the Swedish way. Education Inquiry, 4(3), 22620.
Nguyen, D., See, B. H., Brown, C., & Kokotsaki, D. (2023). Reviewing the evidence base on school leadership, culture, climate and structure for teacher retention.
Niemi, H. (2016). The Societal Factors Contributing to Education and Schooling in Finland: The Finnish Education: Equity and Quality as Its Main Objectives. In Miracle of Education (pp. 23–40). Brill.
Nordholm, D., & Adolfsson, C.-H. (2024). Big ideas, soft governance: Managing large-scale school improvement at the national agency level in Sweden. International Journal of Educational Management, 38(1), 302–316.
Parcerisa, L., Verger, A., Pagès, M., & Browes, N. (2022). Teacher autonomy in the age of performance-based accountability: A review based on teaching profession regulatory models (2017-2020). Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30.
Pedersen, A. W., & Kuhnle, S. (2017). The Nordic welfare state model. The Nordic Models in Political Science. Challenged, but Still Viable?
Pettersson, D., Prøitz, T. S., & Forsberg, E. (2017). From role models to nations in need of advice: Norway and Sweden under the OECD’s magnifying glass. Journal of Education Policy, 32(6), 721–744.
Poekert, P. E., Swaffield, S., Demir, E. K., & Wright, S. A. (2020). Leadership for Professional Learning towards Educational Equity: A Systematic Literature Review. Professional Development in Education, 46(4), 541–562.
Pont, B. (2020). A literature review of school leadership policy reforms. European Journal of Education, 55(2, SI), 154–168.
Prøitz, T. S., & Aasen, P. (2017). Making and re-making the Nordic model of education. In The Routledge Handbook of Scandinavian Politics. Routledge.
Sahlberg, P. (2021). Finnish Lessons 3.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Third Edition. In Teachers College Press. Teachers College Press.
Thompson, G., Lingard, B., & Ball, S. J. (2021). ‘Indentured autonomy’: Headteachers and academisation policy in Northern England. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 53(3–4), 215–232.
Thuen, H., & Volckmar, N. (2020). Postwar School Reforms in Norway. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.
Uljens, M., Sundqvist, R., & Smeds-Nylund, A.-S. (2016). Educational leadership for sustained multi-level school development in Finland—A non-affirmative approach. Nordic Studies in Education, 36(2), 103–124.