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Universities: Home of the Bean Counter?

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Found this story interesting in Times Higher Education:

Allowing universities to be run by bean counters and bureaucrats is detrimental to academics’ ingenuity and productivity, argues Amanda Goodall

I am intrigued by the difference in the administrative burden that I deal with in my privately funded research organisation the IZA Institute for the Study of Labor, in Bonn, compared with what I was used to in a university. OK, it is a small institute, with 40 in-house researchers and 20 administrators (and 1,000 research fellows). But nevertheless, the systems and processes are concise and unbureaucratic.

Its director, Klaus Zimmermann, who is a labour economist, offered me three reasons why the institute is efficiently run: first, he tries to employ the best he can find from the private or public sectors; second, he never allows the number of administrators to exceed or come close to the number of researchers; and finally, “the most important thing”, he says, “is that both sides understand each other and share the same spirit”.

You think this is obvious, right? Yet complaints in the UK and the US (see, for example, Benjamin Ginsberg’s recent book, The Fall of the Faculty, the Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters) point to the increasing struggle between managers on the one hand and faculty on the other. At its simplest, the disagreements are about processes. Management, which in the US and UK is very influenced by accounting practices, would like to run organisations in a way that is seen as counter-productive and counter-cultural by faculty.

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By admin

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

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