UK United Kingdom

Reform Australian universities by cutting their bureaucracies

Universities drive a knowledge economy, generate new ideas and teach people how to think critically. Anything other than strong investment in them will likely harm Australia. But as Australian politicians…

Australian universities need to trim down their bureaucracies. University image from

Universities drive a knowledge economy, generate new ideas and teach people how to think critically. Anything other than strong investment in them will likely harm Australia.

But as Australian politicians are preparing to reform the university sector, there is an opportunity to take a closer look at the large and powerful university bureaucracy.

Adam Smith argued it would be preferable for students to directly pay academics for their tuition, rather than involve university bureaucrats. In earlier times, Oxford dons received all tuition revenue from their students and it’s been suggested that they paid between 15% and 20% for their rooms and administration. Subsequent central collection of tuition fees removed incentives for teachers to teach and led to the rise of the university bureaucracy.

Today, the bureaucracy is very large in Australian universities and only one third of university spending is allocated to academic salaries.

The money (in billions) spent by the top ten Australian research universities from 2003 to 2010 (taken from published financial statements). Authors

Across all the universities in Australia, the average proportion of full-time non-academic staff is 55%. This figure is relatively consistent over time and by university grouping (see graph below).

Australia is not alone as data for the United Kingdom shows a similar staffing profile with 48% classed as academics. A recent analysis of US universities' spending argues:

Boards of trustees and presidents need to put their collective foot down on the growth of support and administrative costs. Those costs have grown faster than the cost of instruction across most campuses. In no other industry would overhead costs be allowed to grow at this rate - executives would lose their jobs.

We know universities employ more non-academics than academics. But, of course, “non-academic” is a heterogeneous grouping. Many of those classified as “non-academic” directly produce academic outputs, but this rubs both ways with academics often required to produce bureaucratic outputs.

An explanation for this strange spending allocation is that academics desire a large bureaucracy to support their research efforts and for coping with external regulatory requirements such as the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative, the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

Staffing profile (% of total FTE classed as academic) of Australian universities 2001-2010, overall and by university groupings/ alliances. Authors

Another explanation is that university bureaucracies enjoy being big and engage in many non-academic transactions to perpetuate their large budget and influence.

The theory to support the latter view came from Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a naval historian who studied the workings of the British civil service. While not an economist, he had great insight into bureaucracy and suggested:

There need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned.

Parkinson’s Law rests on two ideas: an official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals; and, officials make work for each other. Inefficient bureaucracy is likely not restricted to universities but pervades government and non-government organisations who escape traditional market forces.

Using Admiralty Statistics for the period between 1934 and 1955, Parkinson calculated a mean annual growth rate of spending on bureaucrats to be 5.9%. The top ten Australian research universities between 2003 and 2010 report mean annual growth in spending on non-academic salary costs of 8.8%. After adjusting for inflation the annual growth rate is 5.9%.

The American economist William A. Niskanen considered the organisation of bureaucracies and proposed a budget maximising model now influential in public choice theory. It stated that rational bureaucrats will “always and everywhere seek to increase their budgets in order to increase their own power."

An unfettered bureaucracy was predicted to grow to twice the size of a comparable firm that faces market discipline, incurring twice the cost. Some insight and anecdotal evidence to support this comes from a recent analysis of the paperwork required for doctoral students to progress from admission to graduation at an Australian university.

In that analysis, the two authors of this article (Clarke and Graves) found that 270 unique data items were requested on average 2.27 times for 13 different forms. This implies the bureaucracy was operating at more than twice the size it needs to. The university we studied has since slimmed down the process.

Further costs from a large bureaucracy arise because academics are expected to participate in activities initiated by the bureaucracy. These tend to generate low or zero academic output. Some academics also adopt the behaviour of bureaucrats and stop or dramatically scale back their academic work.

The irony is that those in leadership positions, such as heads of departments, are most vulnerable, yet they must have been academically successful to achieve their position.

Evidence of this can be seen from the publication statistics of the professors who are heads of schools among nine of the top ten Australian research universities. Between 2006 and 2011, these senior academics published an average of 1.22 papers per year per person as first author.

This level of output would not be acceptable for an active health researcher at a professor, associate professor or even lecturer level.

The nine heads of school are likely tied up with administrative tasks, and hence their potential academic outputs are lost to signing forms, attending meetings and pushing bits of paper round their university.

If spending on the costs of employing non-academics could be reduced by 50% in line with a Niskanen level of over-supply, universities could employ additional academic staff. A further boost to productivity could be expected as old and new staff benefit from a decrease in the amount of time they must dedicate to bureaucratic transactions.

If all Australian universities adopted the staffing profile of the “Group of 8” institutions, which have the highest percentage of academics (at 51.6%), there would have been up to nearly 6,500 extra academics in 2010.

While no economist would question the need for some administration, there needs to be a focus on incentives to ensure efficient operation. It’s possible to run a tight ship in academic research as shown by Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

In 2009, Trounson pledged to spend less than 6% of revenues on administration costs, a figure that is better than most firms competing in markets. So far, this commitment has been met.

It’s clear then that finding solutions to problems in modern Australian universities calls for a better understanding of economics and a reduction in bureaucracy.

Join the conversation

51 Comments sorted by

  1. Andrew C


    No one who works in universities will find those numbers surprising

  2. Timothy Devinney

    University Leadership Chair & Professor at University of Leeds

    Quite nicely done ... Basically, administrative structures have evolved from being based on the idea of a support role for the fundamental functions of a university (learning and scholarship) to one where the administration is there to police the faculty to ensure that they comply (resistance is futile - sorry could not resist) and don't loot the farm. Rather than asking what they can do to make the faculty more effective they mainly concern themselves with ensuring that the faculty comply with…

    Read more
  3. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    Staggering numbers, I would have guessed 10-20% bureacrats at most based on zero inside knowledge. One route to efficiency is for every staff member to have a short explicit job description and produce a precise diary what was actually done in a particular week. Then it's easy to read and question "do we need this input?"
    My guess is that bureaucrats spend a lot of time going to and from and at meetings. The subsequent minutes, actions plans and emails, occupy them till the next one.

  4. Dale Bloom


    The situation with universities in Australia seems to be getting worse and worse.

    Many universities have Blackboard Inc running their administration systems.

    This is US imported software (like nearly everything else in an Australian university), and not only has taxpayer money been spent on that imported software, but the administration systems in the universities seem to be getting less efficient in time.

  5. Mat Hardy

    Lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University

    Come on! If we didn't have all those admin staff, who would produce all the email newsletters? I get about 6 newsletters a day from parts of the university I never knew I had anything to do with.

    1. Kim Darcy


      In reply to Mat Hardy

      And don't forget about the the Expanding Gender Diversity Department.

  6. Russell Hamilton


    Non-academic staff covers a lot of different types of staff, so, could we be a little more specific here ..... are you including library staff in your desired cull? If not, who exactly do you mean?

    1. Nicholas Graves

      Professor of Health Economics at Queensland University of Technology

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Dear Russel, your point is a good one. We used the costs reported for spending on academic salaries from the financial statements of the Universities. We realise that much academic activity goes on among non-academic staff, but a lot of bureaucratic transactions are also carried out by those classified as academics.

    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.


      In reply to Nicholas Graves

      I suspect that the distinctions in position classifications are in reality a bit blurry and even mask the bureaucratisation of universities.

      My few working academic mates have found themselves increasingly devoting their time to administrative tasks and have less and less time with students. I'd suggest that focussing on the distinction in time spent with students or research and time devoted to dealing with other academics or processes might give you an even more disturbing picture.


      Read more
  7. Jake Lynch

    Director, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies at University of Sydney

    At last, the dog has barked! And no, we're not talking about library staff, who do a great job. Corporate lawyers, marketing departments... could be sent home tomorrow for a month, to see if anyone would miss 'em.

  8. Craig Savage

    Professor of Theoretical Physics at Australian National University

    I am continuously amazed by the number and diversity of people employed to prevent academics doing their job. The government-education complex creates problems and then expands in order to solve them.

    An example of this is the ARC grants process. Bureaucracies are employed on both sides to work together to waste vast amounts of research time in a process that few people, outside the bureaucracies, think has value.

    The good news is that if we can remove these impediments research and teaching productivity might increase dramatically. I would like to think this would be of great benefit to the nation and the world.

    1. Reema Rattan

      Health + Medicine Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Craig Savage

      I worked briefly in a research office and remember having to measure the font on grant applications with a ruler. Perhaps not all of the onerous load is due to university bureaucracy...

  9. Mo Dickson

    Business Analyst at Southern Cross University

    I agree that administrative efficiency is important. However, in order to improve efficiency we need to make excellent use of our IT departments - to get rid of all those irritating paper-based forms that ask us or our students to repeat information already provided, for example. We need IT to give us a strategic edge and to reach our students online via an ever-changing proliferation of devices and software alternatives. But IT is still regarded as an administrative overhead.
    There are other administrative functions that are required now which were not needed a few centuries (or even a few decades) ago, so let's not make comparisons which are misleading. Perhaps the GO8 are more likely to have on-campus students and thus a reduced need for online facilities? Perhaps they already have more effecient computer systems that other universities are yet to develop. I think a less simplistic examination would prove interesting.

    1. Reema Rattan

      Health + Medicine Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Mo Dickson

      The Go8 university I worked for had an IT department that continuously misconfigured servers so everything would go down or forget that people who worked at the university were their customers, not their serfs. Frankly, the sort of services provided by university IT departments seem to be rapidly becoming redundant as academics of the I-don't-know-what-my-mouse-is type retires and cloud computing becomes the norm (and less experienced academics get computer savvy PhD students.

      My experience of university IT departments was that they were blockers rather than facilitators of efficiency because they are protecting their little kingdoms and attendant budgets.

    2. Banjo Lawson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      The Go8 university I worked for had a stellar IT department in my School.

  10. Sharman Harper


    Perhaps the Go8 are able to achieve economies of scale in the administration of their research/ teaching? If this is the case, then reducing the number of professional staff at other Universities could mean that acedemics are left doing more adminatrative tasks which doesn't seem efficient.

    Also as noted by some of the others I don't think it is fair to equate 'admin costs' with professional staff salary costs, as many such staff (e.g. lab techs, research assistants, programmers) have a direct role in the conduct of research or teaching and I expect that most private entities would not consider these to be salaries to be 'admin costs'.

    1. Craig Savage

      Professor of Theoretical Physics at Australian National University

      In reply to Sharman Harper

      The objective is to get rid of unnecessary administrative tasks - things no one should be doing.

      There are many professional staff in universities who support research and teaching in essential and direct ways. We need more of them.

      The problem is with self-referenetial administrative bloat that lives in a world independent of the nominal university functions of teaching and research.

  11. Patrick McCormick

    logged in via Facebook

    Would love to comment further, especially given the arrogant tone of some comments, but I do not have the 'academic freedom' granted to academic staff.

    I applaud efforts to reduce duplication and ensure we (professional staff) act as enablers rather than roadblocks, but would prefer to see specific examples of unessential bureaucracy we can encourage our universities to slim-down. Outsourcing is not a guaranteed path to cost savings.

    Also, the authors' first graph is included without comment on the differences in trend (greater growth in academic salaries over the seven years compared to professional staff). Your point may be made even stronger if you produce the same graph based on FTE rather than spend (seeing as average academic salaries is significantly more than for professional staff).

  12. Sharon Kitt

    logged in via Twitter

    Yes, we'd all get away with being so much more productive if it weren't for those meddling kids. *yawn*

    Universities are not a closed circuit and they aren't a corporation; they are driven by the political and social whims of their environment, and are required to be at the beck and call of the Government as well as the marketplace. I've worked on both sides of the admin/academic divide, and I agree there are plenty of areas that could do with some decent pruning. However, the ole "too many admin staff" chestnut shouldn't be used to deflect from the reality that for every admin staff member that is raining on your research parade there are just as many academics who aren't actively producing research or quality teaching and learning outcomes because they are just as crap.

  13. Sally Totman

    Associate Professor, Middle East Studies at Deakin University

    The biggest obstacle to 'fixing' the problems of over-administration is that those with the power and authority to do so would have to fire themselves. The proliferation of senior academic administrators who do no teaching and barely any research is quite astounding. More astounding is that they keep telling the rest of the staff (who do teach) what the students need and want when they haven't set foot in a classroom in 20+ years. Everyone who identifies themselves as an academic should teach. Regardless of level or administration role. This, in my opinion, is the first step to culling the dead wood at the top of the tree.

  14. George Morgan

    Senior Lecturer, Institute for Culture and Society at University of Western Sydney

    This is an important piece, but it fails to recognise that the most important factor in the erosion of time available for core functions of teaching and research, is the growth in the volume of administrative work performed by academics. It is not just that non-academic staff numbers have increased, it is that in the risk-averse, over-managed universities are subjecting their academic staff to multiplying forms of surveillance, performance management, policy regulation and paperwork. Where professional staff once supported academics and took on most of the bureaucratic burden, now their time has been colonised by management and academics are left to cope alone with the ever-increasing tsunami of administrivia.

    1. Nicholas Graves

      Professor of Health Economics at Queensland University of Technology

      In reply to George Morgan

      With respect George, this point is a major one for us and we make this comment in our article..

      "Further costs from a large bureaucracy arise because academics are expected to participate in activities initiated by the bureaucracy. These tend to generate low or zero academic output"

      Thanks for your support. Nick

    2. Mat Hardy

      Lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University

      In reply to Nicholas Graves

      "universities are subjecting their academic staff to multiplying forms of surveillance, performance management, policy regulation and paperwork."

      Not to mention the now endless appeals against results, special considerations etc etc from people who haven't attended a class all trimester, yet still have to be treated with an enormous amount of due process.

  15. Rebecca Hurst

    School Manager HPRC at University of Queensland

    Some of the problems as I see them (I am a School Manager in a Go8 University, and I have worked in the UK HE system) are compliance tasks and reviews. Not that we don't need them, we do, but there are way too many of them, and they are frequently too onerous. Another problem at large institutions is the disconnect between Schools and the Centre. Vast amounts of time are wasted on miscommunications, poor systems, a lack of analysis, a lack of understanding of end user needs, a lack of consultation…

    Read more
  16. Angus Black

    Professor (retired)

    In order to truly appreciate the problem, this article should also take account of the make-work administrative burden of the academic staff... With only a little thought, one can see Heads of School compounded with (often multiple) deputy heads, degree coordinators, plagiarism offers, etc etc but worse is the form filling and reporting which pervades the life of any academic. As just a small example, think how often academics must report each publication they create...

    My best estimate is that academic activity (teaching - inc prep and assessment - research - inc reporting (by which I mean papers/books and talks)) is supported by no more than 20% to 30% of recurrent expenditure at the Universities where I have worked.

    I don't intend to detract from, but rather to amplify, the authors' message

    1. William Raper


      In reply to Angus Black

      As a retired CSIRO Research Scientist I can assure you that Universities are not alone with these problems. From my perspective, they stem largely from the fashion to create huge Universities from a multitude of scattered small teaching institutions. This started from Dawkins ""review" decades ago. This was a master stroke in removing pressures on local politicians from pressure of local voters unhappy with local institutional operations.

      This has then been compounded by increasing requirements for accountability, apparently from Government but probably mainly from the Federal bureaucracy. We are seeing the same approach in the primary and secondary teaching areas. Accountability is is a "motherhood and safety" type issue whi

    2. William Raper


      In reply to William Raper

      Sorry fat fingers!

      issue which appeals strongly to all. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to be rationally measured in professional type systems such as research and teaching. Continuing efforts to improve measurement of accountability has become hugely counter productive, leading to increasing levels of bureaucracy and, perhaps more importantly, diversion of professional time to filling in forms etc.

      I despair of ANOTHER government review!

  17. Gideon Maxwell Polya

    logged in via Facebook

    This is a timely article but the situation is even worse than presented because the 45% of university staff who are academics includes numerous part-time academics who are now responsible for over 50% of undergraduate teaching in Australia. A vice chancellor dedicated to non-productive and indeed counter-productive Bureaucracy on $1 million pa earns 100 times as much pre-tax as a casual academic doing the core job of Teaching on circa $10,000 pa.

    The prime functions of universities are to (1…

    Read more
  18. Whyn Carnie

    Retired Engineer

    Why am I not surprised that members of the academic cohort have woken up that budgets cannot support the high overheads spent on non-productive administrative staff? These unproductive people have entree to 'the Head Office system' and make-work concepts that keep them in employment. Some come from operational areas because they can see more in it, in the admin office, for themselves, than in onerous productive work.

    Unfortunately all government sponsored systems are prone to these same budgetary problems. I mean in particular Education, Health, Transport, Local Government and so the list goes.

    Good top management is the solution. That is where decisions are made to set limits on budgets for overheads and selection of middle Managers to implement them.

  19. Paul Abela

    Executive Director at Association for Tertiary Education Management

    I think the premise for this article is somewhat skewed.

    There is a difference between the work of professionals (much better word than Non academics, no one likes to be defined as what they are not) and bloated bureaucracy which seems to automatically have evil connotations. It is an easy whipping boy to cut “back room”jobs.

    I think what the article is really saying is that is the reasonable use of resources and the best way to manage the complexity that is the modern university which should…

    Read more
  20. Gavin Moodie
    Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct professor at RMIT University

    Some medieval universities paid some lecturers from lecture fees the lecturer collected at their lecture. Since this was most lecturers' only source of income most were very poor - recall Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford. In those days universities had no enrolment record. The evidence that a candidate for the award of a degree had attended the prescribed courses of lectures and conducted the prescribed disputations was the candidate’s oath and lecturers’ affirmations. By the Renaissance all universities…

    Read more
  21. Christopher Peterson

    Senior Lecturer

    In response to Paul Abela:

    "There is a difference between the work of professionals (much better word than Non academics, no one likes to be defined as what they are not) and bloated bureaucracy which seems to automatically have evil connotations."

    Yes indeed, no one likes to be defined by what they are not, but ironically the recent obsession in Australian universities with the moniker "professional" in place of "general" staff does exactly that: it implies that academics are non-professionals (amateurs). I challenge you to name any other profession, as it were, where the term "professional" is employed to describe a particular class of employees in contradistinction to other employees, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

    This colonisation of the language of professionalism is symptomatic of expanded administrative power and its desire to justify further bureaucratic bloat. What is wrong with being referred to as administrative staff?

    1. Paul Abela

      Executive Director at Association for Tertiary Education Management

      In reply to Christopher Peterson


      The term 'academic' is a very well accepted term for a highly developed and respected profession.

      Calling non academics "professionals' does in no way diminish this or imply that academics are amateurs. Academics work alongside professionals to provide the education services that are required of the modern university.

      The use of the word administrative staff is still not an adequate way of describing this cohort of workers. It includes a number of diverse professions (marketers, HR people, student admin, finance) with a uniting theme that they are all tertiary management professionals. I would point you to the literature on this.

      I think it is important to avoid stereotyping the professional (and for that matter the academic). There is a great deal of cross over of roles and fort he most part great strength in the way this works.

      And as Gavin Moodie says there is a lot to be said for a more rigorous analysis.

    2. Christopher Peterson

      Senior Lecturer

      In reply to Paul Abela

      I'm sorry Paul, but I don't think you understand what the term professional actually means. It either refers to the quality of work performed or the fact that an employee is remunerated for that work (usually both). "Professional" is clearly being appropriated and misused by managers to describe how well they are (supposedly) doing their jobs. I am not commenting on the quality of their work (good or bad). I'm saying that job titles should be descriptive, not qualitative. Everyone who works at a university is a professional in the dual sense that they perform work for which they received specialised training and for which they are paid. So, I renew my challenge for you to name any other profession where the term "professional" is employed to describe a particular class of employees in contradistinction to other employees, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

    3. Giles Pickford
      Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired, Wollongong

      In reply to Christopher Peterson

      Dear Christopher

      I think Paul is talking about the profession of University Manager which is painfully emerging around the world, opposed all the way by academics like yourself.

      We started years ago as the out doors staff, then the down stairs staff, then the administrative staff, then the non-academic staff and finally as the general staff, which everyone agrees is totally meaningless. I once acted in T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral".

      I was chosen to be the third bishop from the…

      Read more
    4. Christopher Peterson

      Senior Lecturer

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      "Professional Staff" is just as meaningless as "General Staff," since all staff at universities are professionals.

      "We consider that we have become a profession and we want to be given a name which reflects these big steps upwards."

      We are a profession, therefore we want to be called "professional"? Since every profession consists of professionals, the title to which you want to lay claim is so general as to be utterly vacuous.

      I'm not necessarily saying that the work of university administrators is indistinct from that in non-university settings, especially the corporate world. Perhaps it is, though the increasing corporatisation of universities leaves me skeptical.

      I am claiming that the title of "professional" is being misused. I can't think of any other group of administrators in any sector that would refer to them themselves in this way, even though they may have good reasons for thinking of their administrative work as distinct from that in other areas.

    5. Paul Abela

      Executive Director at Association for Tertiary Education Management

      In reply to Christopher Peterson


      I disagree that the term 'professional' implies a qualitative term. There are good and bad lawyers, good and bad doctors and good and bad professionals.

      However it is important that a term be used to describe someone who looks after a billion dollar budget, or is responsible for enrolling 7000 students per semester, or who understands and works through university governance. The examples are many.

      I don't agree that by describing one a professional, it immediately diminishes another the status of academia. I am sure that academics are very professional in their outlook but professional is a noun as well as an adjective and is the best word we have found to date to describe what we do.

      However, if you are able to encapsulate what Giles and I are referring to in a word, we would be open to any suggestions,

  22. Miriam Goodwin

    Research management consultant

    Two things have been conflated here.

    One is work being done by academics that does not relate to teaching or research (e.g. time spent by senior academics on data gathering, form signing, etc) and the other is the number of people who oare employed by universities and do not do teaching and research.

    They are not the same thing.

    Rather than seeing the solution to the first being a reduction of the second, I'll be bold here and suggest it's the other way around If more management and…

    Read more
    1. Stephen Holmes

      logged in via email

      In reply to Miriam Goodwin

      As a computer teacher who also administered two computer labs in the '90s, I went from 18 contact hours, 8 hours student lab admin/support and 8 non-contact hours class prep on my original contract, increasing to 24 contact hours but still required to do the other work in less time. This shift happened over 5 years and at the same time there was a reduction in administrative staff in our School. I left the job because of the additional administrative burden placed on teachers.
      I wanted (needed) admin support so I could spend time with students, teaching and mentoring. Cutting administration staff made the job unworkable, so be careful what you wish for academics ...

    2. Christopher White

      PhD candidate at La Trobe University

      In reply to Stephen Holmes

      I have to agree with Stephen's comment. In my (admittedly recent and short) career as an academic, I watched the single administrative staff member of the department I worked for struggle to do the work of five people. She is now gone, along with a slew of academic staff in the general gutting of the Humanities Department, leaving two full-time academics, both of whom were already doing many hours of unpaid overtime each week, to do the work of three lecturers, plus the administrative work as well…

      Read more
  23. Cameron Murray

    logged in via Twitter

    I know this is a favourite topic for academics, who still seem to find plenty of time to write about it.

    But both your graphs seem to suggest that there has been no growth in bureaucracy for the last 12 years or so - academics are still 45-46% of the workforce and 29% of the costs.

    Given the much greater obligations on universities - from student administration, reporting, marketing (yes, that's what you need in competitive markets - not always the discipline you expect), managing ever greater…

    Read more
    1. Tony Heywood

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Cameron Murray

      I'm sure the support requirements for an Oxford Don with their handful of students weren't very extensive - no need for multimedia embedded PowerPoint presentations with full upload to a server for later online viewing by distance students when you flash forward to campuses with thousands of staff and students in a modern context. Sure it's easy to point the finger at 'the bureaucracy', but what services do you want to do without? The cleaners? The finance people who process your pay? The IT people…

      Read more
    2. Tony Heywood

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Tony Heywood

      That should have been a general comment rather than a specific reply to Christopher!

  24. Whyn Carnie

    Retired Engineer

    Come on. Any service organisation, and surely this is what Universities are, needs to concentrate on customers' needs. The level and the cost of service provided must be such that customers do the marketing.

    Probably not the best example (pre Laptops, PCs, whiz-bang teaching aids etc) but when I was an undergrad in a relatively small school, non-teaching staff plus lab attendants and other non operational people were a fraction of the teaching staff numbers. Students and post grads did their own…

    Read more
  25. Anthony Peter Moss

    Project Officer at Flinders University

    In line with the comments of Ms Tottman, I worked in a private school in the first decade of this century and there I witnessed an increase in the rise of managerial positions, Directorships etc, all requiring support and extra admin. Staff. Teaching staff were attracted into these roles, but it became plain that the move removed staff from the reality and experience of teaching, which is actually what you want, staff employed to teach and do nothing else. The driver of this development was that school was being corporatised in a way that was linking career progression to taking on managerial roles. To make that work, there had to be more roles for staff to aim for to make the situation "competitive", and thereby give senior managers a means of control and influence beyond the classroom. Essentially, it begins to remove the focus from the task at hand, education.

  26. Anthony Peter Moss

    Project Officer at Flinders University

    Apologies, Professor Tottman, I meant write.

  27. Colin Jevons

    Business Academic

    The saddest thing about this article is the disclaimer, where the authors assert that they do not work for any organisation that would benefit from this article! Surely all universities (including the Go8 that employs me) would benefit from streamlined administration and less micromanagement from Government?

  28. Fred Bloggs

    Agent provocateur

    I recommend a read of James Burnham's excellent book "The Managerial Revolution".

  29. Patrick Stokes

    Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

    I should preface this by saying I've had a foot in both camps: I worked in the international office at another university while doing my PhD and am now an academic. And on this side of the fence I am *very* grateful for the professional staff, without whom I simply couldn't do my job.

    Re-skewing the balance between academic and professional staff always sounds like a good idea, at least to academics. The difficulty always comes when you decide where to cut (read: who should lose their job…

    Read more
    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thanx Patrick Stokes: a good contribution.

      I think academics would start with the general staff who ask acas to complete forms or submit data, especially data which is already held by the 'administration'. That is partly a function of better data management, as you note. But much reporting is required by external bodies - ministers, departments, quality bodies, etc.