Managerial split 1

March 21, 2003

Steven Schwartz's article ("Can you pinpoint your boss?", THES , March 7) attempts to make the case for a more "business-like" model of university governance, but fails to convince.

He states that "if (governing councils) are dominated by insiders, there is a potential for conflict of interest". But surely that potential also exists if the council is dominated by outside interests?

Again, "only those people with no plans or those who promise everyone whatever they wish to hear are elected" is a rather simplistic characterisation of representative democracy, a system that has prevailed against "utopian socialism" and fascism.

"Managers who are hired can be fired", but by whom, on what authority and for what reasons? Managers who are elected can also be removed democratically by those in the best position to judge their competence.

"An explicit set of delegations, responsibilities and accountabilities along with written targets and performance goals" may be appropriate to university governance or they may be irrelevancies. The case for each of them needs to be democratically debated, not just asserted.

Schwartz's ideas have a utopian cast. Far from taking us into the 21st century, they might just take us back to the Middle Ages, before those "self-governing guilds of masters and students" formed the first universities.

Richard Bosworth
School of Computing, Mathematical and Information Sciences
University of Brighton

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