It’s educational…

I.T. has written an interesting article – or at least part of it – about universities, the point of them in general, and so on. While it doesn’t go as far as most academics would, which in my experience includes dismissing the entire administrative community as a vast, mindless red-tape machine, it raises some interesting points about the future of what a university is required for, and argues nicely as to why the endless chains of middle-management are doing nothing but drawing out a death.

These are fair points – I have to agree with a lot of what he says. As an admin monkey, I have to explain that tedious and hideous though audits may be, they’re a necessary thing to ensure the comfortable academic community doesn’t get decimated by apocalyptic waves of lawsuits. Some bureaucracy is necessary to ensure that insane lecturers such as those I deal with on a regular basis, don’t run roughshod over the friendly, easy-going ones.

That’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last few days, and the curse of the administrative team, I made one mistake. I’ll admit this, it wasn’t just me, etc., but the fact of the matter is I made a mistake – a pretty small one in relative terms. And yet I’ve had a barrage of emails like an aerial bomdbardment both to me and over me – for professionals, these people are pretty snarky. The worst was the academics I’ve been dealing with, with whom I didn’t make a mistake – the phrase ‘toys out of the pram’ has rarely been as appropriate.

I certainly agree with IT on many things, and it’s an interesting discussion as to the future of universities: I’ve worked in maybe the worst and maybe the best in London, one after the other, and it’s interesting seeing the parallels. The thing I’ve seen both times though: academics don’t understand admin; admin doesn’t understand the academic. C’est la vie.

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2 Responses

  1. A fair response – not often one hears from the admin side of universities, particularly on blogs. ‘Toys out of the Pram’ apply equally to inter-departmental spats too, as well as academic-admin fights, sadly. Never have I witnessed such infantile behaviour as in University staff meetings.

    I am very depressed about the future of the University, I have to say. I think admin and academics, as well as government policy and businesses will all be to blame in the end. I would be curious to know more (in general!) about what kinds of lawsuits the audits protect us from and what admin don’t understand about academics and vice versa. Oh and small thing – IT is a she!

  2. My apologies! One black mark against my name for gender relations.

    Thanks for your reply. I work at a university (which shall remain nameless due to previous form vs. staff members’ blogs) which prides itself on its outstanding academic reputation, its quality of research, its political influence. And yet today I’ve been dealing with respected academics threatening to pull a course over timetabling issues, and in general, expecting the moon on a stick to be delivered to them, at their preferred time, with silver bells on.

    What it seems that academics don’t understand about administrative staff is that we have to be hard-headed and inflexible for things to run properly. Every so often I have to get jobsworth, and depending on who I’m dealing with, sometimes I enjoy it, often I don’t. If I were to be as flexible as the academics would like me to be, it would not be an overstatement to say that the summer would be complete chaos, and extremely damaging.

    You mentioned audits – these are not fun, I admit this. But much as I’d like it otherwise, I work for an organisation which is essentially a commercial business – students pay good money for their education, and if they fail, maybe it’s our fault for not delivering the package better. It’s the same as the disco/lecture dilemma you mention. Admin are there (in theory at least, and at least the ones who do their job well!) to tie up loose ends and stop these things happening, and if you see little of the students’ complaints and problems, then that’s a testament to a good admin staff.

    I’ve waffled – in closing I say:
    a) I realise that I make generalisations (where’s the fun of blogging without that!), and I know there are exceptions on both sides.
    b) I also don’t understand the middle-management lark, and want out of it pronto.
    c) I’d actually much rather [i]be[/i] an academic.
    d) I loathe long comments. BlogFail for Simon…

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