Manage expectations

July 24, 2014

The underlying story of discontent and aggressive management at Swansea University’s School of Management (“Academic staff are accused of enjoying ‘lovely cosy lifestyle’ ”, News, 10 July) is, sadly, becoming all too common in UK higher education – and business schools seem to be especially prone to it. What is unusual in this case is the sheer contempt and naked ideological agenda of those involved. Insults about hippy-dippy communes and tie-dyed T-shirts seem more like comments on the Daily Mail website than something you would expect from a senior manager in a university.

But it is not just the nastiness that is striking. What kind of manager, whether in universities or anywhere else, would think that circulating messages like those reported would be conducive even to “a managed institution pursuing goals that are closely aligned with the university’s”, as it is so clumsily expressed? And if it is the case that those leaving are going to “well-regarded universities” doesn’t this rather suggest that, at the most basic level, it is an approach that is delivering failure?

Peter Guillam


The events at Swansea University’s School of Management sound typical of the increasingly Soviet-style management of too many institutions today. Universities appear to focus on five-year plans, top-down targets, bullying of subordinates to achieve them, endless decrees from the centre, repeated monitoring exercises and appraisals, perpetual reorganisations and intimidating state-sponsored inspections (periodic programme reviews, institutional audits, the research excellence framework) to ensure compliance – all justified by the Orwellian use of “accountability”.

The more that Conservatives, New Labour and higher education managers preach the need to embrace “the market”, the more authoritarian and dictatorial is the managerialist regime imposed to make the market work!

The other irony is that a private sector company that suffered just 2 per cent of the hyper-managerialism and state interference that universities are subjected to would be forced out of business after a couple of months.


Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree
men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes