According to The Guardian, “managers” hired by universities in the UK have increased a modest 33% in the last five years. Academic staff have increased by 10% in that time (not my department, depending on how you spin the numbers, we’ve either held steady or lost one half of a FTE), students 9%. While it’s SOP amongst my colleagues to complain bitterly at the encroaching tyranny of administrators and bureaucracy, I consoled myself by believing that it is just grumbling, and if we didn’t target the nebulous bureaucracy, we’d find something else. In other words, yes, we can be whiners. However, that does not appear to be the case, as much in this article rings true.
Front line administrative staff, the wonderful people I interact with on a daily basis and who do a necessary job in a professional manner, have been cut back and consolidated on my campus in the past year. They’re less accessible to both academics and students, and there are fewer of them. It’s just speculation on my behalf, as I have no idea how many managerial level administrators my campus has added in the last five years, but anecdotally, I do seem to be receiving a considerably larger volume of intrusive emails from a number of different directions since I started at my current institution seven academic years ago. It’s not a leap to speculate that financing these email senders has come at the cost of the front line staff.
This is what the chair of the Association of University Administrators (christ, they have their own interest group) has to say on the issue: “Universities, she says, are simply larger than they were two decades ago.” [. . .] Roles such as marketing and human resources have grown so that universities themselves can expand in a more ordered and coherent way. “It’s an important part of the direction of a university, because if you don’t have the right people you can’t deliver.”
Have universities really grown enough in the past five years to justify a ratio of administrators / academics / students at 33% / 10% / 9% ? Or, perhaps universities are losing sight of their core mission, which presumably is the creation and dissemination of knowledge?
In other news, I’ll be at the Western Political Science Association meetings in San Francisco tomorrow through Saturday, disseminating some knowledge I’ve helped create. And drinking a beer or two. (I understand that both SL and DW will be there as well). I’ll also be slightly jet lagged, as I only arrived on the West Coast yesterday afternoon, and I fly down to SF tomorrow morning departing Oregon at 630am. It’s a rare occasion to catch me wearing a suit and a tie.
If I don’t get a post up tonight on LGM about our paper, I’ll get it up Saturday or so. I like to think it’s interesting.