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

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 3 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

Head Coach of Women's Basketball

California University Of Technology

Employee Relations Consultant

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Administrative Assistant

University Of Wollongong

Lecturer - Faculty Office

Monash University

Senior People & Culture Advisor

Swinburne University Of Technology
See all jobs

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations