Red tape reification

December 5, 2013

What is a university for? For the development and dissemination of knowledge and the nurturing of critical, synthetic and analytic thinking. This is done by researchers and teachers who are often one and the same, not by administrators.

A quality institution is one where academic pursuits are primary and the administration supports them. This was the mantra and practice at Copenhagen Business School for more than 20 years while Finn Junge-Jensen was president. It is a mantra that many institutions in the UK have forgotten, or never learned; institutions where administrators outnumber academics and seem more concerned with their own bureaucratic trivia than the fundamental advancement of knowledge.

When immersion in bureaucratic processes becomes an end in itself and is prioritised over meaningful support for academic activities, the university becomes an also-ran, with compliance as its main claim to fame rather than innovation.

There are far too many institutions in the UK in particular (but doubtless other parts of the world, too) where the administrators have taken over and the academics have become second-class citizens harassed by jobsworths. This needs to be reversed if the academy is to progress and universities are to be more than holding pens for unmotivated instrumental students seeking certificates rather than enlightenment.

Lee Harvey
Emeritus professor
Copenhagen Business School

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