Laurie Taylor – 25 February 2016

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

February 25, 2016
The Poppletonian (25 February 2016)
Source: Alamy/iStock

Inside Poppleton: New Series

How well do you know your own university? In a brand new occasional series, we will take a long look at some key aspects of Poppleton life and times. This week: Understanding Management

As many readers will know, our university has, over the years, acquired a significant reputation within higher education management circles. Under the inspired leadership of Jamie Targett, our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, and Louise Bimpson, the Corporate Director of our ever-expanding Human Resources team, there has been a highly successful move away from such organisational practices as debate, discussion and consultation and a concomitant readiness to embrace the innovative management practice of more and more centralisation.

It has been a real revolution. Hundreds of academics who used to spend their valuable time making decisions about such matters as courses and standards can now rest easy in the knowledge that these decisions are being made for them by the vice-chancellor and his close circle of professional managers.

But although Poppleton’s pro-centralisation management philosophy has now been widely adopted by the university sector in this country, one academic, a certain Professor Ben Martin, has recently dared to suggest that such a philosophy flies in the face of extensive research showing that organisations fare better when they are decentralised and employees are given more rather than less autonomy.

According to Professor Martin, professor of science and technology studies at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit, new vice-chancellors “almost without exception” assume that more and more centralisation is the solution to financial and league table targets, escalating competition and a perceived need for growth.

Targett was quick to describe Professor Martin’s views as “dangerously subversive”. He had no direct personal knowledge of the Sussex Science Policy Research Unit, although he was “frankly surprised” that such an apparently free-standing unit had not yet been successfully merged with other Sussex units or departments.

But Targett did derive some comfort from the news that Professor Martin had “hesitated” before publishing his paper in case it was “misconstrued”. This, said Targett, was a clear sign that he was already well on the way to embracing the new and important academic principle of rigorous self-censorship.

Not that this “good news” could atone for Professor Martin’s “wholly gratuitous suggestion” that the current commitment of vice-chancellors to larger and larger operating units was “strangely reminiscent of Soviet ideology”. This assertion, said Targett, was “dangerously close” to implying that a number of currently serving UK vice-chancellors “were nothing more than little Stalins”. Targett said that he could already hear the derisive laughter that would echo around university campuses at such “an outrageous suggestion”.

BA (Honours) Hermeneutics

Q1. Do your level best to reconcile the following statements:

  • The University of York considered the Russell Group to be “a ridiculously elitist, irrelevant organisation”
    Greg Dyke, chancellor of the University of York from 2004 to 2015, speaking at the inaugural conference of the Bridge Group, 2016
  • “It is an honour and a privilege to become a member of the Russell Group. The invitation to join such a group of highly prestigious universities reflected the great progress we have made since our inception in the early 1960s”
    Brian Cantor, vice-chancellor of the University of York, 1 August 2012

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