Xipeng Liu

Email: x.liu.4@research.gla.ac.uk

Address: Rm681, St Andrew's Building, Glasgow G3 6NH

Research title: High-performing Primary and Secondary Schools in Southwest China: Successful Principal Leadership and School Development

Research Summary

My research engages educational leadership and management, particularly the principal leadership in the Chinese context and the leadership impact on school performance.

In today’s world, educational leadership is acknowledged wildly by researchers and practitioners as one of the substantial drives promoting school performance, including teaching, learning and managing. China, an emerging power of the international community, with colossal progress being witnessed concerning its socio-economical development in the past three decades, is believed to benefit significantly from its education system. In 2012, the PISA test results shocked the western public and academia, in which China’s performance ranked at the top of the league table. Since then, growing numbers of scholars have initiated research to understand the competitiveness of China’s education, which has been perceived as a fruitful result of China’s educational reform in the 20th century.

Since the late 1980s, the Chinese central government has exerted enormous effort into the modernization and universalization of state education, aiming to build an accessible, affordable, and effective schooling system. Amongst its endeavours, improving the quality of school management was emphasised at a national level. “Learning from the developed education system” was one of the themed movements. Officials, researchers, principals, and teachers were dispatched to developed economies for comprehending the mechanism and advantages of school management. Later, in the 1990s, Chinese schools and local educational authorities were encouraged to localize and contextualize outlooks and practices from China’s international counterparts. In the meantime, some Chinese values and approaches regarding educational management, proven effective by Chinese schools and administrative bodies, remain unchanged and intact.

As a result, western school elements were introduced and integrated into Chinese institutions, coexisting with Chinese characteristics. After two decades of schooling reform, the overall quality of school management in China has remarkably improved. Nevertheless, an interesting finding, no model could be applied to outline Chinese school leadership, even if successful schools’ stories tended to be similar. Western approaches and eastern philosophies have jointly influenced and shaped Chinese schools and their leaders, so do the traditional values and innovative technologies. To conceptualize the modern Chinese school leadership, it is neither a “west VS east” tale nor a story of rivalry, but a man walks with both legs. Thus, the hybrid and dynamic nature and the vast number and large size of Chinese schools make it difficult for researchers to generalize a typical successful principal leadership model in the Chinese context.

Being inspired by the leadership phenomena at Chinese schools, I have conducted a qualitative case study, with international perspectives and in the scopes of modern leadership models, to peek into Chinese principal leadership in the 21st century, including its traits, concepts, practices, and impacts. By undertaking on-site fieldwork, I can interview and observe successful principals at high-performing primary and middle schools in southwest China. With the leadership practices and mindsets to be followed, recorded, and examined, portraits of Chinese principals in line with their impact on schools are revealed. The research findings may contribute to modern educational leadership models and knowledge of Chinese school management. Likewise, my research may also benefit researchers and practitioners interested in international and Chinese educational leadership.

Research Interest

  • Educational Leadership and Management
  • School Improvement


2015 IOE-Waseda International Student Exchange Support Programme Scholarship (80,000 yen) 


2016 June, CERA (Chinese Education Research Association) Annual Forum, PISA Test and China: A Discourse of PISA Test Result and Influence in the Chinese Context

Additional Information

Educational Background

2018 to Date: PhD Candidate in Education, University of Glasgow, UK

2015-2016: MA in Comparative Education, University College London, UK

2013-2016: MA in Interpreting and Translation, Sichuan International Studies University, China

2008-2012: BA in English, Sichuan International Studies University, China