Letter: Researchers aren't the only elite 1

November 30, 2001

There are strong arguments for encouraging each university to concentrate on what it does best ("Blair plans to create elite research tier", THES , November 23). But this has to be more than a method whereby a self-perpetuating group of institutions is permitted to continue to scoop the pool.

Along with an elite of research-led universities, we should expect to have an elite of teaching universities and an elite of enterprise universities. There has to be parity of esteem and of resourcing.

In terms of management style, we have to look to models other than the elitist "jobs for the boys" or 1980s-style bully tactics. Committees still spend endless hours arguing over the price of cheese, while critical decisions are taken behind closed doors elsewhere.

Flat management styles are no panacea. Too often they obscure the structures of responsibility and allow varying amounts to be paid for work of similar value (Soapbox, THES , November 16).

I wager that in any university, 5-10 per cent of staff embody the partnership-oriented style advocated by Michael Shattock (Soapbox, THES , November 16). These people keep the place on its feet day by day, linking to provide the service the students and other "clients" require. Sadly, the preponderance is not at the senior end.

The government and senior university managers need to listen and learn from this genuine elite before bringing forth recipes for the future.

Ian Purver
University administrator
Withington, Manchester

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