“Look at any real population of academic staff…you’ll see not a uniform group of similarly capable, functionally equivalent individuals, but a tremendous diversity of strengths, working styles and weaknesses. That’s something to acknowledge and embrace.” (“A team that is built by numbers will never add up to much”, 3 April.)
This is spot-on in accuracy. Universities tend to treat staff as uniformly capable. There are some excellent academic administrators, teachers and researchers at any given university; sometimes there are even those (a rarity) who are uniformly capable across all these dimensions; the great fault, however, is to treat academics as if they have the same capacities and aptitudes. Too often, universities fail to acknowledge the existence of differential “comparative advantages” among their staff complements. The result is a wasteful use of resources whereby, for example, universities try to make all academics researchers who are required to generate X amount of research outputs per year, when in fact they would be better off channelling those academics who have particular abilities, aptitudes and motivation into other just as crucial fields such as teaching and academic administration.
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