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 6 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

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard