Admin 'elementals' are a distinct breed 2

April 1, 2010

As one of the "accidental administrators" referred to in "Career strategies" (25 March), perhaps I am fated to agree with many of the sentiments at its core. But I am more uneasy with the article's perhaps subliminal message: namely, that for "professional administrator", it is OK to read "wannabe academic".

Not so. The motivation to gain professional qualifications and recognition is not to think, look or be like an academic. It is (as in the case of my MA) the desire to gain the necessary skills to understand modern higher education and the environment in which it exists. I am thus enabled to research the sector with scientific rigour and expertise, articulate my thoughts in a professional manner and thereby play a professional role in supporting my institution and the wider academy.

I would reinforce the message that modern higher education administration is not founded on "academic envy" by asking colleagues - scholars and professional support staff alike - to acknowledge several points:

- First, we must not perpetuate the PhD myth - that to have one is an end in itself, and that not having one leaves you as a professional also-ran.

- Second, we must understand the multiplicity of the professional qualifications available and the contribution they can make to developing enhanced administrative staff to support our institutions' ever-changing objectives.

- Third, we must have a clear framework in which these qualifications can contribute to development.

- Finally, and most importantly of all, we must be comfortable in our professional skins and understand that academics and professional support staff have different and complementary roles to play in developing our very complex organisations. I don't want to be "blended": I am happy being distinct and professionally relevant.

Matthew Hisbent, Faculty teaching and learning manager, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham.

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