Faddish behaviour…

Management Fads in Higher Education: Where They Come From, What They Do, Why They Fail by Robert Birnbaum


This is just an outstanding book. Although the focus is on the USA, the messages are eminently translatable to the UK context. Birnbaum carefully analyses and deconstructs the big management fads to have hit US universities including:

    Management by objectives
    Zero-based budgeting
    Strategic planning
    Business process re-engineering.

The reasons behind the popularity of each and the vulnerability of institutions and managers to their charms are also explored at length.

Despite the fact that he demonstrates their failures in the USA on all terms, Birnbaum concludes, surprisingly perhaps, that their introduction in a controlled and measured way can have positive benefits in forcing managers to think differently about the way in which they tackle big challenges. The conclusion of the book includes a strong exhortation to a humane and pragmatic approach to management in universities. Such an approach he argues, whilst not easily seduced by fads such as these, is capable of positive adaptation to changing environments.


“From hack to boffin”

Hack to boffin in six months? University seeks journalist

Let us ignore the shorthand of “hack” and “boffin” here – it is a really good story…

A university is hoping to turn a journalist from a hack into boffin in six months, opening its doors to give them an in-depth look at the world of scientific research.

The University of Nottingham is looking for a willing journalist to ’embed’ themselves in its Science, Medicine and Engineering faculties for six months.

The volunteer will spend time with scientists, engineers, professors and their lab teams as they conduct research. The aim is to get a detailed understanding that is not normally possible with the pressure of newsdesk deadlines.

…and a great idea. However, I can’t believe we’re going for embedding in science – what about joining the administration? Perhaps the next one…

See here for the full story.