Uncrackable codes

May 29, 2014

The phenomenon that the anonymous senior university manager is describing when he refers to worries about the appointment of ambitious outsiders (“Rise of the replicants: management clones and shades of beige”, Opinion, 22 May) is that of a closed culture, with obscure local rules that are so coded that they cannot be communicated. This is the type of environment that encourages progression by longevity and politics, not by shared understanding, clear guidelines, overt operational codes and transferability of goals.

Sadly, the “experience” the author refers to is protectionism, silo working and negativity, which do not create a “unique culture”. People starting in new roles are “expected to know” the closed coded culture, or fail. What institutions like this need is not people who have hung around, they need people who have seen different cultures and who have experienced clear career progression based on ability.

Jeremy Ireland
Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

 

Far from arguing for a return to the past, the anonymous senior administrator is simply pointing out that a corporate model for the governance of universities carries with it many risks that were not inherent in the collegiate principles hitherto employed.

One of these risks is that the craving for “modern” management leads to the appointment of senior staff who lack knowledge of the realities of academic life or who, in the case of former scholars, can be second-rankers mouthing the fashionable jargon but lacking the eminence of their predecessors.

A couple of years ago, I and four colleagues from Queen Mary University of London made a submission to the Institute for Public Policy Research as a contribution to its Commission on the Future of Higher Education in England. “Remedying Failures of Corporate Management in UK Universities” had the following conclusions: “We are sharply critical of the current generation of institutional leaders and senior managers, whose personal motives and incentives conflict with the long-term interests of their universities and lead them to introduce unacceptable policies and methodologies. While we accept that high fees, research audits, league tables and impact assessments will continue into the foreseeable future in some form, we urge administrators to resist, not acquiesce to, the pressures to exhibit unrestrained corporate behaviours. We believe that shared governance by academics, students, administrators and external stakeholders is a better option than executive dictatorship.”

Our concerns were noted in a single line in the 156-page report of the commission, whose membership largely consisted of…managers.

David Bignell
Via timeshighereducation.co.uk

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
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Viewed

Most Commented

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

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham