What's in a name? Nothing good, AUA members argue

Organisation's full title unpopular with rank and file, but rebrand is unlikely. John Morgan reports

February 18, 2010

There are three problems with the Association of University Administrators' name. Some members are not sure about the "association" part; opinion is divided on the "university" element; and there are serious doubts about the term "administrators".

So it is not surprising that in the most recent issue of the organisation's newsletter Newslink, Maureen Skinner, chair of the AUA, proposes that it is "time seriously to review our name".

She told Times Higher Education: "Quite a few people have an issue with the term 'administrator' because it implies passive bureaucracy.

"A lot of people have an issue with the term 'university', particularly those who work in further education, as well as non-university-based higher education.

"And there are those who have a problem with the word 'association', thinking it may imply a trade union."

For anyone who struggles with higher education's litany of abbreviations and acronyms, the list of suggested alternatives may send a shiver down the spine.

They include the Universities Professional Staff Association (Upsa); the Institute of Higher Education Managers and Administrators (Ihema); Higher Education Managers and Administrators (Hema); Managers and Administrators in Higher Education (MAHE); University Managers and Administrators (Uma); and Managers and Administrators in Universities and Higher Education (MAUHE). However, abbreviation-phobes can rest easy - a name change is unlikely.

Ms Skinner, registrar at Thames Valley University, said: "In terms of opinions, the response I got was generally in favour of a name change.

"The big problem was what the new name would be. Although people don't like 'administrator', they dislike 'manager' even more. Managerialism is not something that goes down well with our academic colleagues.

"We like 'professional', but it is not specific enough. It could include some types of academic staff."

Short and sweet

What inspired Ms Skinner to think about a rebrand was hearing that some senior managers had been put off joining the AUA by the "administrators" tag - despite the fact that the organisation already has many managers as members, including vice-chancellors.

She said the most likely solution was to stop overtly stating what the abbreviation stands for, so that the organisation simply becomes known as "AUA".

At a recent board meeting, members said the funding squeeze made this an inappropriate time for a costly rebrand.

Ms Skinner said the AUA's focus would remain on raising standards in university management and administration through professionalisation - and improving the status of such work.

Many administrators feel "very passionately about the importance of higher education", she said.

"They are the ones dealing with individual student issues - whether it is finance or accommodation - to help them through."

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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