“Why would administrators choose to work in a university? The academics they work alongside often dismiss them as a lower form of life, parasites – the non-academics who drain resources. Administrators talk of the existence of apartheid, an iron curtain, of being thrown together in an arranged and unhappy marriage in which neither party understands the other.” 

Ann Mroz, Times Higher Education, April 9 2009


It is commonly thought that management is taking on a larger and more strategic role in universities. As faculty slowly and continually retreat to a limited set of responsibilities they leave more functions in the hands of  non-academics. 

In the US and Australia, administrative staff now outnumber academics. And their impact on the institutions is clearly being felt. Greater attention, for example, is being paid to efficiencies through centralized services. Outsourcing of functions is (very) slowing growing as schools seek to focus their energies on core competencies. The strategic planning process actually involves . . . well . . . strategic planning. There is less hesitancy to collaborate with the  private sector and so forth. 

These changes generate all sorts of new dynamics within universities, including tension between academics and management. While it is more common to hear of academics criticizing management, jokes about academics can be heard from management, as well, albeit more quietly. 

Although more management types now come from outside of academia, the majority started their careers as academics, as I did. (I can’t count the number of times I was asked why I gave up a position in one of the more enviable occupations.)

Celia Whitchurch moved in the other direction; from administration to academic. Now she is focussing her research on the changing nature of higher education management. Her work is worth a read.  

Her report, “The Changing Roles of Professional Managers in Higher Education,” looks at . . . 

• Changes in the nature of the roles performed by professional administrators and managers in UK higher education, in the light of developments in institutional contexts and structures.

• Changing career paths and patterns.

• The future leadership and management development needs of this group of staff.

A summary of the report is available here. 

The full report is available here

A news article on the research is available here. 

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