Unsung but vital

April 22, 2010

In "Third spaces and bragging rights: the administrator fights back" (8 April), Matthew Andrews asks: "Should we recapture the term 'administrator'?" I couldn't agree more.

Recent reports, including those in THE, suggest that administrators may be seen as a financial burden, and confuse their crucial role with that of managers.

Administrators are highly skilled professionals who ensure that organisations function effectively. They set up support systems and processes, maintain the necessary records and sort out problems to enable other staff to perform their duties. Their efforts enable managers to organise resources and the work of others.

Administrators are often invisible and their praises are rarely sung. They are seldom noticed when things go well and often blamed when they don't.

Higher education is going to have to look hard at what everyone does. It is clear from Sir Alan Langlands' comments that streamlining systems, process reviews and reorganisations will become commonplace ("Fish, rhinos, snakes, oh my: a series of unfortunate fates", 8 April). But the answer to this harsh conundrum is not to scapegoat any group of staff.

As we all face up to the implications of reduced funding, a more effective way forward would be to recognise that there are many different professional groups to be found in higher education. Each of these groups has its own distinct strengths, which must be harnessed to ensure that universities and colleges continue to be well-run and successful organisations.

Margaret Dale, Chief executive, Educational Competencies Consortium.

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