Managing managers

November 2, 2006

Great fun was to be had around the land last week with the article "Bad managers put six 'at risk'" (October ). But I wonder if it isn't short-sighted in that it fails to acknowledge the Higher Education Funding Council for England's own contribution to the so-called bad management in the case of the higher education institutions listed "A" to "F".

Isn't the current situation an outcome of unintelligent (rather than "bad") management on all sides? Who is actually responsible for the chaotic funding environment? Who has propped up, over a number of years, institutions already in deficit? Who has introduced top-up fees, creating uncertainty both for students and for the institutions at which they would normally enrol? Who has caused disarray for research-active institutions, not simply by creating uncertainty with regard to research assessment exercise-outcome based funding, but by undermining next year's RAE in the very lead-up to it?

Perhaps this is not a simple case of bad management in the institutions concerned, but rather a matter of their failure to deal adequately with the multiple risks introduced by the chaotic situation. Where the number of risks requires constantly updated parallel risk management, and tends, because of externally imposed funding schedules, to "go bad" for some institutions all at once, the issue is not simply a matter of local "bad managers". Why not ask who or what it is that manages the managers?

Susan Melrose
London

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