Move over dons, administrators now rule, says v-c

April 9, 2009

The days of the "donnish dominion" are over and university administration is perhaps the key profession in higher education.

This is the view of Sir Peter Scott, vice-chancellor of Kingston University.

At the annual conference of the Association of University Administrators this week, he said that despite being a "pretty mixed bunch" in terms of professional responsibilities, administrators probably had greater claim to being the crux of the university endeavour than academics, vice-chancellors or governors.

He said that he regretted the erosion of the power of the senate, and suggested that the influence wielded by senior academics was now more "executive and managerial" than "academic and collegial". "As for the donnish dominion," he said, "I'm not sure there's much of that left outside Oxford and Cambridge."

Professor Scott said that another potentially powerful group in higher education was governors. Their influence had expanded in the past 20 years, partly as a result of the "worship of the free market", he said. This development coincided with the birth of the "quangocracy", typified by government-linked bodies that viewed universities as "delivery organisations".

But none of these groups had as much claim to the title of the "key profession" in higher education as administrators did, Professor Scott said.

He compared universities to the National Health Service and said that anyone who had been in hospital would know that doctors were not the be-all and end-all of the medical profession - indeed, hospitals would not run at all without administrative staff.

Professor Scott said that a glance across the Atlantic to the US would show how important administrators could be. "In some (US universities), faculty are rather peripheral to the whole process," he said.

Maureen Skinner, chair of the AUA, said "I'm encouraged to hear that we the administrators are not powerless, and I'm particularly encouraged to hear that from a vice-chancellor."

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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 6 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

Featured Jobs

Senior Lecturer in Human Genetics LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Lecturer in Biochemistry LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Professor in Marketing UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

Most Commented

Artist Frank Boelter sitting in life-size paper boat

Creator of crowdfunding teaching tool says entrepreneurship courses should drop the traditional business plan as a method of assessment

Social media icons

Gabriel Egan laments the narcissistic craving for others’ approval brought on, he says, by the use of social networking websites

Elly Walton illustration (25 August 2016)

Treating students as consumers has precipitated a rush to the bottom to give them exactly what they want, says John Warren

Superhero costumes hanging on a washing line

Senior management do not recognise support staff’s pivotal role in achieving positive student outcomes, administrators say

Man photocopying a book

Students think it ‘unfair’ to be punished for unintentional plagiarism