University of Nottingham: Graduate Trainee Programme

The first group of four Graduate Trainees are coming to the end of their year-long programme which has been extremely successful.

seeds

As the advert for the 2009-10 scheme describes it:

The University is delighted to announce the Nottingham Graduate Trainee Programme. This innovative programme, aimed exclusively at University of Nottingham graduates from any of the University campuses interested in developing a career in university administration. It offers an invaluable insight into this dynamic management activity whilst developing an understanding of:

* markets
* income streams
* resource allocation processes
* client bases including students, parents, employers, funding bodies and commercial partners.

The programme offers four trainees the opportunity to experience key components of university operation and build an understanding of the institution’s strategy. Trainees will spend 12 months undertaking a planned rotation of placements in different areas of the University, reporting to senior staff. Placements will be across central services and schools, and trainees may have the opportunity to experience activity at one of the University’s overseas campuses in Malaysia or China.

The evidence from the presentations by each of the trainees on their experiences and the results both for them and the University is extraordinarily positive. They have all done outstandingly well and all four have now secured other posts within Nottingham which really is excellent news.

Comments on some of the outcomes of the programme can be seen in a recent podcast:

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Impact of the Budget on higher education

Savings needed? No need to think about it, just cut the administration.

John Denham has written to HEFCE on the impact of the Budget.

This is a significant letter from the Secretary of State but it doesn’t quite say what the Guardian is reporting. The paper’s headline states: “Universities told to cut admin costs, not teaching or research”. This isn’t precisely the message but the sentiments are there:

Ministers have calmed fears that universities will be asked to axe thousands of academic jobs and make savings on teaching and research. Denham460x276
Letters from the universities secretary, John Denham, to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) confirm that savings should be made in administration costs, rather than the core university business of teaching and research.

“I am confident that we can find efficiency savings whilst protecting the quality of teaching and research,” he wrote.

Savings should come from programmes that “do not directly contribute to the frontline delivery of teaching and research”, he added.

The important point here is that, having determined that universities have to make significant savings it really isn’t the job of the Secretary of State to tell institutions how to prioritise their spending. Of course institutions will not seek to undermine quality of teaching and research. But the idea that there is this huge unnecessary raft of administration from which savings can easily be made, that this will have no effect on quality and also that that somehow administrators are dispensable is simplistic and thoroughly misguided.

So, universities will find their own ways to make the savings required and will, it is to be hoped, aim to do so in a measured and sensible way. But this kind of advice is not hugely helpful.

A “cheerless science”?

Not quite the dismal science that is economics but not far off it seems.

From the obituary of Sir Neil MacCormick, Regius professor of law at Edinburgh:

Not content with teaching, writing and research, he enjoyed and excelled in the cheerless science of academic administration, serving over many years as dean of faculty, provost of law and social sciences and vice-principal.

Cheerless? Really? Or has the fun associated with the activity been seriously underestimated?

More on Departmental Headship (as or versus Stalinism)

Following up an earlier post on this topic (with thanks to John Dale and the author for the prompt):

Nice post in which Mark Harrison draws on substantial knowledge and experience to compare and contrast Stalin’s Soviet Union with his reign as Head of Department:

The big difference was this: I had no barbed wire. With a few coils around the campus, I could have blocked off the exits. I’d have had to give guns and spotlights to the security staff. If I could have stopped my professors from leaving, I would have been able to do things to them that would lower their welfare, and they would have had to accept it. They would have grumbled, and then conspired against me, and I would have needed a political police within the department to listen, detect, and report it to me. I’d soon put a stop to that. Forced labour would be next. But I had no barbed wire. If they didn’t like the pay or conditions on offer, and could do better elsewhere, my colleagues would leave. Other universities that could use their talents more productively would make them a better offer, and I would have to match it or lose them. Without barbed wire, I could not accumulate personal power by treating others badly; I could get my way only through reliance on positive motivations.

But there are also some very strong positives here too. Well worth a look and I will get round to reading the article by Radice which prompted this.