Too Many Administrators?

Here we go again

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting piece on administrative staff numbers which suggests that a 28% growth in Higher Education work force numbers is primarily due to additional administrative staff.

As report says

Other industries have found ways to outsource services that are not central to what they do, but higher education has invested more and more—as part of a strategy, he contended. Just as a cable company bundles channels together and makes you pay for them all, whether or not you watch them, colleges have bundled counseling, athletics, campus activities, and other services with the instructional side to justify charging more.

“All of those things they are bundling are adding to the price of attendance,” he said.

So, not a terribly helpful view.

And, naturally, people working in student services see things rather differently:

Patricia L. Leonard, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said that growth in student services might reflect colleges’ response to increased regulation and pressure from parents and policy makers.

Faculty members typically don\’t deal with legal disputes, government regulations, athletics compliance, or intervention in mental-health, sexual-assault, or disabilities issues—that’s the professional staff’s job, she said.

“When you put that all together, there may be increased staff, but it’s because campuses are trying to meet the need,” she said. “Any one case is extremely time-consuming.”

People have come to expect that education extends to activities outside the classroom, she said. Many of her staff members not only coordinate with instructors, but also teach classes.

“It’s an integrated approach,” she said, “and I don’t think that would happen if it were outsourced.”

We’ve been here before. A previous post on this subject made my position pretty clear on this issue I think:

In order for the academic staff to deliver on their core responsibilities for teaching and research it is essential that all the services they and the university need are delivered efficiently and effectively. There is not much point in hiring a world-leading scholar if she has to do her all her own photocopying, spend a day a week on the ‘phone trying to sort out tax issues or cut the grass outside the office every month because there aren’t any other staff to do this work. These services are required and staff are needed to do this work to ensure academics are not unnecessarily distracted from their primary duties.

So, there is a lot more to be done to support the student experience, a great deal more regulation to deal with and ever more support required to help academics do the best job they can. There will undoubtedly be scope for efficiencies too and the situation in the UK is nowhere near as dramatic as shown by this US data but still this does not point to immediate outsourcing as the solution to all of these concerns.

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