Managing a complex beast

July 10, 2008

As a manager in a UK university I can sympathise with the plight of Bernard Casey ("Generosity earns a severe scolding", 3 July). Allowing for the possibility that we don't have the full Birkbeck story, this could be just another in a recent line of apparently heavy-handed responses to straightforward issues that would have been better resolved with a bit more conversation, gentle investigation and a dollop of old-fashioned common sense.

However, I can't agree with Casey's correlation between the amount of administrative staff and his problem. As universities evolve into more complex beasts, an increase in numbers of administrative staff is inevitable until an equilibrium is established. It ought at least to be matched with sufficient academic resource to maintain a high-quality student experience that would include resources such as his troublesome revision session. There are undoubtedly some administrative sections in universities that are generously staffed, but there are also many that are struggling to cope with increasing demands on static or dwindling resources.

Matthew Hisbent, School manager, School of Civil Engineering, University of Nottingham.

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