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Weak universities should read the book Breaking Up Giant Corporations

Weak universities should read the book Breaking Up Giant Corporations

Timothy Daveny recalls the horror he showed when he was shown a scattered spreadsheet of “key performance indicators” for a department at the university he once worked at. The data covered 110 targets and an employee was assigned to monitor each.
“Only two types are important: knowledge and teaching. A prudent organization will look at administrative costs and try to eliminate them,” said Professor Divine, international business president at the Alliance Manchester University of Economics.
In a newly published blog, Devin argued that colleges and universities should be separated to deal with distractions, just as private sector corporations have been dismantled in recent years. He said: “Universities (…) are paralyzing the skills of their staff.”
Divine’s concern reflects the frustration of many in higher education in the UK and abroad, where management and bureaucracy are distracted from the core teaching and research of universities. Having too many staff and procedures runs the risk of consuming resources, thus slowing down implementation and undermining the functioning of universities.
Although criticism of the rising middle management rankings and excessive red tape is common among employees in almost any organization, there is growing concern in universities about the specific phenomenon known as “academic inflation,” which raises concerns about undermining the scope and functionality of the elite. Education.
“Academics have lost their power,” says Allison Wolf, a professor of public administration at King’s College London. “The more you expand, the more bureaucratic you become. This is an important concern. Of course universities need good administrators and non-executives. The key is academic staff, but more important is the quality of teaching and research. The opposite will happen.
Wolf found a disproportionate increase in the number of principals in a study entitled Principals and Academics in the Middle Sector: New Employment Methods for Higher Education in the UK, conducted with Andrew Jenkins, Associate Professor at the University College London College of Social Research. And non-academic staff at universities in the United Kingdom. According to an analysis published late last year, this came at the expense of academic roles linking teaching and research, as well as the loss of clerical staff.
This pattern is repeated elsewhere. The authors cite studies from Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, France and Australia, all of which show an increase in the number of executive, professional and senior executive positions compared to the traditional roles of academics in recent decades. .
One of the factors that led to this was the increase in government-mandated requirements, accountability and compliance. The formation of the UK’s Higher Education Quality Assurance Agency in 1997 marked a turning point in the quality of education monitoring, with demands for research “even without material expertise” – but met with little opposition from university associates. He added: “We have seen an increase in management and strict controls.”
The expansion of the higher education sector is another factor – more local students in universities, especially in the English-speaking world – along with the competitive search for higher-paying foreign students. This led to the development of certain activities such as recruitment and marketing, support services for the changing needs of diverse incomes, greater emphasis on student facilities, and their desire and satisfaction as they became more and more in demand as “consumers” of education.
Ronald Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said: “There is no doubt that there will be pressures from the development of services in line with research, student psychiatric services, counseling and diversity based businesses. He adds.
But he argues that such special roles should be expanded in line with educational levels – at least when they are properly implemented. “Students express a demand for these support services, and if you find that they have serious problems with anxiety or ADHD, it is best not to seek support from well-trained people, but from professionals who can deal with these issues properly,” he says.
Nick Beach, vice president of the University of Middlesex and head of the British Academy of Management, agrees. “We tend to focus on a lot of commitment and discipline,” he says. “It comes from government agencies and funders. This is inevitable as the technical nature of the company grows. In addition to teaching, training and research, you have a technical team, a health and safety team, real estate and utilities.” The university’s finances are very complex, so you need a professional organization. “
At the same time, Peach notes that many academics focus on their personal work and see themselves as “heroic leaders” while failing to recognize the value of technicians and other support staff. “It’s easy to find my younger version who is somewhat critical of the system,” he says. “But I’ll changed. I’ll often see major career transition events, such as getting big grants, and thinking differently. I think of some of these back-office employees, and now I wonder if I could have gotten grants without them.”
Another fundamental problem is that good educators will not always be competent managers or driven by enthusiasm. They sometimes take the “management position” reluctantly because they prefer to focus on their research or teaching rather than managing others in their field – not to mention engaging in broader responsibilities such as contracting, human resources or technology.
Peach argues that an improvement in university management may come from increased power and participation of non-academic staff. “If they are fired and then hired to serve academics, it is very difficult to become professional and add any value,” he says. “I made a break with it.”
Daveny agrees, pointing to the close relationship with academics at some of the universities in the United States, where he suggests that senior executives often have graduates at the same university who have in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of their institutions or provide opportunities for staff in Australia. Take lessons for free so that they can engage more closely in a task in which they are engaged.
Daniels says it is important to engage and consult with educators to gain their support for transforming resources into management and guidance roles. “First, you need to be prepared to be very open with teachers about where the extra money is being spent and what it’s being spent on, so they see a connection between the legitimate demands facing the university and how they respond.”
But in the face of high costs and complicated procedures, others insist that education administrators should ask for more and oppose it. In his analysis, Wolf cites far fewer studies of hiring non-academics than academics, which he says is a “classic creep of poor management and bureaucracy.” He argues that university governing bodies should examine in more detail employment policies for non-academic staff.
“Management is not always controversial,” says Devine, who argues that if universities are to report on teaching, research and student satisfaction, they need to analyze administrative overlays in more detail.
As Peach suggests, educators need to be prepared to take greater risks and avoid increasing compliance measures. “In businesses where I spend time, they are better at leaving things out and deciding when something is adequate. Their approach to risk is often more subtle than universities.”

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