Principal leadership in a Chinese public-private partnership (PPP) school: A case study

Xiaohong XU

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This study was performed to explore how a nationally renowned Chinese principal managed a new reformed school based on a unique public-private partnership (PPP). The investigation was focused on how the principal interacted with key stakeholders and managed the ongoing development of this new school. School M is a unique example of PPP in education, in that it has the status and receives the associated benefits of a public school, but is managed by an entrusted philanthropic educational foundation. The school is co-sponsored and operated as a joint partnership between the local education authority and a prestigious private company. The data collection involved semi-structured interviews with 20 informants (four school leaders, six teachers, two private managers, four governmental officials and four parents), representing the main stakeholders of the school. Data were also collected through participant observation, reflective field notes and archival research at the school. Qualitative and interpretive case analysis was used as the research framework. The data were analyzed using analytical codes and thematic clustering. The results of the study highlighted the complexity of the PPP in School M. During the six-years of the principalship, the partnership brought both leadership opportunities and challenges. These were sorted into five categories: institutional innovation, goal planning, resource allocation, principal appointment and flat management structure. A discussion is provided on the different roles of the stakeholders, namely the government, the private company, vice-principals, middle leaders, teachers, and parents. The results also revealed the broad range of leadership strategies used by the principal to respond to multiple accountabilities. In the conclusions section, recommendations are made for further studies on leadership in a broader socio-cultural context, and the implications are discussed for theory, practice and policy. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • WALKER, Allan David 汪雅量, Supervisor
  • QIAN, Haiyan 錢海燕, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Alt. title: 一所公私合作學校的校長領導力研究
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2020.


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