Exploring The Academic Administrator Divide1
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A report on a research project on how academics and administrators work together in universities.

A report on a research project on how academics and administrators work together in universities.

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Exploring The Academic Administrator Divide1 Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Maree Conway Report on ATEM Peter Karmel Travel Grant TEM Conference, September 2008 Phoenix Rising or War of the Worlds? Exploring the Academic-Administrator Divide: Myth or Reality?
  • 2.
    • In the eyes of all Professors, all administrators are an evil. Say to yourself every morning “I am an evil but I am a necessary one.”
    • Sir Eric Ashby, 1966
  • 3.
    • “ There is a great deal of talent in the academic staff of higher education institutions. How they manage the systems which surround them and still find time to make a contribution to academic programmes is a minor miracle...There is an old adage that administration is too important to be left to the administrators . It seems to me that this is certainly true of the sorts of reforms [in the Green and White papers] we now need to discuss.”
    • Cullen, 1988
  • 4. 3. The data… 5. Myth or reality? 4. Discussion 1. Background – or why did I bother? 2. The literature
  • 5.
    • Universities are my reference point, so I use that terminology.
    • ‘ Divides’ probably exist in any organisation where different professional groups interact, and where professional groups are ‘managed’.
    Caveat
  • 6. A bit about me Long and good career in CAEs, TAFE, universities 2007….integrating long term thinking into strategy development, using futures approaches Managed their planning units 1999-2005 2005-2007
  • 7. Why did I bother?
    • Began to ponder in 1990s.
    • Elected ATEM VP in mid-1990s.
    • Started my PhD in late 1990s:
      • Neighbouring Professions/Impact of Professionalisation on university work
    • ATEM President in 2001-2003.
      • Campus Review Back Page articles
    • Listening, pondering some more.
    • One more go!
  • 8. The future of tertiary education is uncertain…
  • 9. What is the role of managers in an uncertain environment?
  • 10.
    • In particular, how is that ‘management’ role understood by staff, universities and government?
    • Is it defined – consciously or sub-consciously - as a divide?
  • 11.
    • “ In almost all higher education institutions there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’ aspect to the manager-academic relationship, which will vary from nothing more sinister than staff club banter to real conflict and tension… when perhaps the one topic that academic departments can agree on is the need to ‘prune’ the management or the administration.”
    • Holmes, 1989
  • 12. Why this topic?
  • 13.  
  • 14.  
  • 15.  
  • 16.  
  • 17.  
  • 18.  
  • 19.
    • Talking about a ‘divide’ assumes there is one.
    The Issue
  • 20. Solutions are being identified… Eg: partnership (Shattock, 2000); “redefining long held assumptions…and… work tasks” (Seyd, 2000)
  • 21.
    • So, if there are solutions being offered, there must be a divide…
    • … right?
  • 22.
    • Is there an academic-administrator divide?
    • How do we know?
    • How is it experienced by administrators and managers ‘on the ground’?
    My questions
  • 23.
    • If the divide does exist, should anything be done about it?
    My questions
  • 24. Is the divide blurring?
  • 25. Are we just experiencing the next evolution of the university as a workplace?
  • 26. Terminology Manager Administrator Allied Staff Academic Professional Teamwork Partnership Non-academic
  • 27.
    • Context
      • increasing complexity of university management:
        • massification,
        • diversification,
        • managerialism/corporatisation,
        • exteriorisation ,
        • accountability, and
        • changing expectations.
    The Literature
  • 28.
    • The same drivers of change affect academic and administrative work.
    • Each group, however, has responded differently.
    Drivers of Change
  • 29.
      • From an administrator:
      • “ university administration has been transformed…by external pressures” (Shattock, 2000)
    The Literature
  • 30.
      • From an academic:
      • “ Organisationally speaking, we have AIDS…a new disease…sweeping through higher education…takes the form of corporate management, a particularly nasty virus which has the potential to cripple and destroy the social fabric of relationships” (Smyth, 1989).
    The Literature
  • 31.
    • Hostile, conflict…
    • Them and us…
    • General and non-general staff…
    • Fractured…
    • Uneasy and ambivalent relationships…
    • Competitive collaborators…
    • Diarchy: parallel hierarchies…
    • Clear fault lines…
    Descriptors
  • 32.
    • “ The complementarity but also tension and rivalry between academics and administrators has been a long standing feature of the university landscape” (Lindsay, 1995).
    • “ Problems of staff communication…among academic and general staff…represent major barriers to the effective operation of our universities” (Coaldrake, 1998).
    Some broad statements…
  • 33.
    • Little understanding of administrative role:
      • terminology (non-academic)
      • invisible workers (Szerekes, 2004)
      • occupation not recognised beyond administrators themselves (Dobson & Conway, 2003)
      • unhappy about lack of appreciation for role and lack of acknowledgement for increasingly specialist skills (McInnis, 1998)
  • 34.
    • Increasingly specialised roles in response to context complexity
    • Blurring of roles and boundaries (Pickersgill et al, 1998, Whyley & Callender, 1998)
    • Competitive collaborators (Conway, 1998)
    • New professionals (learning technologies) (Gornall, 1999)
    • Understanding the difference between governance and management as sources of power (Dobson & Conway, 2003)
    Work and Roles
  • 35.
    • Little understanding about how academics and administrators work together, except at local level:
      • McMaster (2002): how deans and faculty managers work together
      • Haywood (2004): 70% of faculty managers satisfied with role
  • 36.
    • Separate culture (Clark, 1982)
    • Separate values (Becher & Kogan, 1992)
    • Administrators generally predisposed to appreciate importance of scholarly values, but important differences in values and motivations:
      • considerable shared ground in outlooks and attitudes (McInnis, 1998)
    Values
  • 37.
    • Dearing Report (1997)
      • subject specialists, niche finders, new professionals.
    • Whitchurch (2008 forthcoming)
      • Bounded, cross-boundary, unbounded professionals, blended professionals
      • the emerging ‘third space’
    Identity
  • 38.
    • “… the paper outlines four common complaints about professors with regard to governance: ignorance, inability to see the big picture, a self-serving approach and a lack of appreciation for the role of administrators.”
    • Us vs Them in Academe,
    • Inside Higher Ed, 4 August 2008
    Us vs Them in Academe
  • 39.
    • Technician-academic
    • Clerical-academic
    • Marketing professionals-academic
    Other Divides Emerging…
  • 40. And alternative models…
    • Androgynous professional (Moodie, 1994) scholarship, authority by relevant expertise, and closer links between power and accountability.
  • 41. The Relationship Continuum Divide? Partnership? How are these stages along the continuum defined and interpreted? And, where are we now…really? Androgynous?
  • 42.
    • A lot of assumptions underpin talk of both divides and partnerships.
    • I wanted to see if these assumptions were myth or reality.
  • 43.  
  • 44. The Method
    • Exploratory
    • Qualitative
    • Self Selecting
    • ‘ In the field’
    • Australia, UK and New Zealand
    • Workshops, focus groups, questionnaires and interviews
  • 45.
    • Intended to collect data from only administrative staff because the role is usually defined in terms of academic work
    • In all sessions, academic staff also attended
  • 46.
    • “ Divide” deliberately chosen to trigger discussion.
    The Method
  • 47. The Method
  • 48.
    • How would you describe the relationship between academics and administrators in your institutions, and in universities more generally?
    CLA Litany
  • 49.
    • What systemic factors (trends or drivers of change) do you believe are driving the relationship described by the litany?
    CLA Social Causes
  • 50.
    • What assumptions are driving the social causes?
    • What creates meaning for your group around the relationship?
    • Whose perspective is dominant?
    CLA Worldviews
  • 51.
    • What impact would the continuation of the relationship in its current form have on the management of universities?
    • Create a quick snapshot of your discussion, using imagery/myth/metaphor.
    CLA Myth/Metaphor
  • 52.
    • Is the divide real or myth?
    • If real, what action do we need to take to address the divide – if any?
    • If myth, how do we dispel it, or do we ignore it?
    • Consider:
      • what assumptions need to change?
      • which group can help the most?
      • how do we rebuild the issue (30 second elevator pitch)?
    Discussion
  • 53.
    • I wanted to dig down into how people experienced their role in terms of their relationship with academics, and to surface different perceptions.
    Why this method?
  • 54. The Data
  • 55. Participants Gender 80% female 20% male Location 47% in faculties 27% centrally (corporate) 13% academic support units 13% other Classification 49% Senior Managers 44% Middle Managers Contact 83% have direct contact with academics 15% have indirect contact Length of time in Higher Education 42% up to 10 years 36% between 10 and 20 years 22% 21 years +
  • 56.
    • More use negative words to describe their personal relationships with academics.
    • More middle managers describe their relationships with negative words.
    • More senior managers describe their relationships with positive words.
    • All describe the relationship generally with more negative words
    Descriptors
  • 57.
    • If you don’t do teaching or research, then you are just a parasite.
    • A work in progress.
    • Can be brutal.
    • The enemy within.
    • Admin-free Fridays.
    • Academic ideal is alive and well even though we know it is dead.
    Litany
  • 58.
    • “ Administrators do not respect or appreciate the stresses faced by academics nor the effect of policies on students. Academics do not understand the thinking or methods employed by administrators.”
    Litany
  • 59.
    • Administrators are high cost and low value, whereas academics are high value and the cost doesn’t matter.
    • They dump work on me that they should do.
    • When it all goes wrong, I have to bail them out.
    • We never question their expertise, but they question ours.
    Litany
  • 60.
    • Undervalued, difficult, distrusting, exhausting, interesting, fragility, icy, not appreciated, daunting, disrespectful, bewildering, dismissive, strained, ineffective, tense
    Descriptors of Opposites
    • Respected, positive, professional, supportive, invigorating, friendly, hierarchical, civil
  • 61.
    • The divide between academics and university administrators is perpetuated by ‘dinosaurs’ on one side and ‘jobsworths’ on the other.
    • The vast majority…saw the divide as counter productive and morale sapping…academics saw administrators as a burdensome waste of money rather than colleagues sharing a workload.
    How the THES saw it
  • 62.
    • Compliance and reporting demands
      • now a real tension between being a resource and a regulator (UK)
    • Increasing demands for customer service
    • Institutional cultures (and leadership)
    • Increasing separation of administration from core business.
    Social Causes
  • 63.
    • Lack of understanding of nature of freedom for academics – tension between freedom and responsibility
    • Political/economic drivers driving academic behaviour (eg research performance)
    Social Causes
  • 64.
    • Academic work has a higher value; the perspective of academics is paramount.
    • We assume academics are collegiate.
    • Academics are dispensable…
    • Growth is good.
    • General staff are servants.
    • Academics have never been in the real world.
    • Pendulum has swung so far that academic work is being devalued.
    Worldviews
  • 65.
    • Tertiary admin disassociated from workplace experience of research & teaching
    • Admin has all the power and plays to a different set of rules to those to which academics abide
    • Size of admin continues to increase
    • Contrasting ideologies
    • General staff have nothing worthwhile to say
    Worldviews
  • 66. Myth/Metaphor
  • 67.
    • Cloud of administrators descending on academics who are drowning in a sea of bureaucracy.
  • 68.
    • Car mechanics (administrators) driving cars (teaching and research) around in circles.
  • 69.
    • Need marriage guidance counselling – the relationship is not firing on all cylinders.
  • 70. Admin Mafia
  • 71.  
  • 72.  
  • 73.  
  • 74. “… two parallel streams running towards the same river mouth. There might be some moments when they merge, but on the whole they run on parallel courses.” “ Two different groups of people travelling on different, though parallel roads, attempting to get to the same destination but never quite getting to the same goal.”
  • 75.
    • “ One imagines two camps plotting against each other and attempting to subvert the efforts of each because of the absence of a shared commitment to quality teaching and learning provision.”
  • 76.
    • “… heart pumping metaphor - one can't live without a number of things contributing to it.”
  • 77.
    • “… a caste system inhabited by scholars and secretaries.”
  • 78.
    • A sheltered workshop
    • An (admin) missionary trying to get the point across
  • 79.
    • A decaying empire – a great monolithic thing on the landscape. Structures and processes to allow it to grow, but becoming stagnant on the inside and increasingly irrelevant. Choked by vines growing up and over it.
  • 80.
    • “ Take it back to students and core business…change behaviours and attitudes via that.”
    • Change the terminology used to describe administrators (education ministries, take note!):
      • “ just call everyone staff of the university”.
    Rebuilding the Myth
  • 81.
    • Administrators need to work in both academic and corporate departments – change has to be experiential .
    • Ensure leadership creates an environment that suits both groups:
      • leaders need a shared view of the value of both groups
      • ensure leaders have traits to encourage openness and stop behaviour that encourages divide.
    Rebuilding the Myth
  • 82.
    • Open up the discussion about work roles in institutions:
      • challenge the assumptions about the value added by administrative staff
      • understand that professional staff are there to support teaching and learning, not academics
    Rebuilding the Myth
  • 83.
    • Reinvent the divide as a positive, a creative tension
    • Identify and promote shared values
    • Clarify who really holds the power (understand the difference between governance and management)
    • Standardise conditions
    Rebuilding the Myth
  • 84. Discussion
  • 85.
    • Role
    • Respect
    • Communication
    • Leadership
    • Terminology
    • Personalities
    Themes
    • Local vs institutional operations
    • Emerging third space
    • New divides
    • Pressures
  • 86.
    • Tension in organisations is inevitable:
      • organisations are made up of people
      • competing agendas
      • personality and ego
      • power
      • clashes of professional cultures or tribes
      • often viewed as ‘healthy’ tension
  • 87.
    • Tension in organisations depends on the individual as well as systems and processes.
    • It was clear that some people didn’t see a problem at all – they had always managed to get on with academics.
    • But, some people are having a hard time.
  • 88.
    • “ I truly cannot imagine a university NOT having this divide. It's just part of a university. In many cases, it is just joked about and laughed about and all done in fun . In other cases, it is more serious. But at the end of the day, one cannot survive without the other . Universities won't run if they only have academics as employees, and universities won't teach if they only have administrators as employees. I feel it is just part of the climate of working in this industry - you have to find some way to get along.”
    • But…how do you ‘get along’?
    One View…
  • 89.
    • “ Divide is demoralising for academic staff. Funding of teaching has reached a point where >60% of government funding for our university is used to support administration. Depts receive less than 40% of funding which must pay for staff salaries (academic and general) and cost of teaching. Academic staff feel that they are doing the "work”, teaching & research, that brings the status and reputation of the university but are never praised or acknowledged by administrators.”
    Another View…
  • 90.
    • Academics not linked to management structures
    • Lack of understanding about what it takes to run a university
    • Lack of understanding of drivers behind what admin staff have to do.
    Academics
  • 91.
    • Administrators not linked to teaching and research structures and practices
    • Lack of understanding about academic work
    • Lack of understanding of drivers behind what academic staff have to do
    Administrators
  • 92.
    • “ Pressures and touch points have changed and exacerbated divide”.
    • When the divide is felt or experienced to the degree it seems to be, it is counter-productive in terms of effective management.
  • 93.
    • How a person perceives their role (their professional identity) might influence how they view their relationships in the workplace:
      • enforcer, compliance (a certain type of power comes with this role)
      • partner in the student experience
      • ignored, invisible
      • a bucket to kick when the going gets tough
  • 94.
    • The divide itself might be shifting – from academic-administrator to faculty-central.
    • At the local level, the relationship appears to be positive (eg research on faculty managers) – although this is not always the case.
    • Beyond the local, more mistrust and misunderstanding.
  • 95.
    • “ Equality and good relationship only in my own department”
    • “ Tend to be more supportive/appreciative of “their” administrators than of those in central…units”
    • “… very positive…as the academics …appreciate the administrative support provided locally, because there is greater understanding of the administrative role on the local level.”
  • 96.
    • But also…
      • perhaps an emerging divide between academics and students (technology driven)?
      • does institutional type matter (ie traditional/sandstone vs new universities/ polytechnics)?
  • 97.
    • Senior managers and administrators see that if the relationship doesn’t change, the institution may not survive, while academics just see a future of more administrators.
  • 98.
    • Not a single positive metaphor was created to describe the relationship.
  • 99. Myth or Reality?
  • 100.
    • “ Dangerous to generalise…”
  • 101.
    • Divide is not unique to universities.
    • Divide is real, but multifaceted.
    • Experienced differently, depending on where you work in an institution, and the roles you occupy.
    • Its impact is mediated by individual relationships:
      • “ you never forget the dirty teacups”
  • 102.
    • Academics recognising professionalism and shared values of administrators, and
    • Administrators moving beyond compliance to understand nature of academic work, and how their own work and roles are changing.
  • 103.
    • Both need to recognise the complexity of university work now and how the way universities are managed needs to change as a result.
    • Retreating to stereotypes has not helped anyone.
  • 104.
    • Does institutional type matter?
    • What are the characteristics of positive professional relationships?
    • How do academics feel? How do VC’s feel?
    • How do ‘new professionals’ feel?
    • What are the values that we want to underpin university work in the future?
    Emerging Questions
  • 105.
    • What is it about the local environment that seems to generate positive working relationships?
    • Is this what is emerging in the ‘third space”?
    And…
  • 106.
    • Work on future of universities suggests that paradigm shift we are on the edge of will accelerate.
  • 107. Changing Paradigms Steve Murby, The Nature of Universities, 2003 THE CHURCH STATE CHURCH AND STATE STATE AND FAITH WORLD AND STATE ~ 900 AD ~ 1700 AD ~ 1900 AD ~ 2000 AD SYSTEM CENTRIC LEARNED (SCHOLAR)CENTRIC SYSTEM CENTRIC LEARNER CENTRIC
  • 108. EXPECTATION ECONOMY Just copying competitors is a race to the bottom
  • 109. FREE!
  • 110. THE GLOBAL BRAIN A truly global explosion of talent
  • 111. SNACK CULTURE Smaller, quicker, cheaper
  • 112. HYPERLOCAL - THE NEW GLOCAL
  • 113. Pervasive Computing…
  • 114. The potential impact of the metaverse… where virtual and physical come together
  • 115.
    • Balancing massification and access with increasing expectations about service customisation .
  • 116.
    • Is the way we are managing universities shifting at the same speed?
    • Ways of viewing the relationship between academics and administrators are problematic now, and won’t be sustainable into this ‘new’ future.
  • 117. http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2005/03/incremental_vs_.html http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/remote_access/2006/06/literacy_as_bat.html No one jumps a 20 foot chasm in two 10 foot jumps
  • 118.  
  • 119.
    • Beyond stereotyping
      • Dinosaurs
      • Them and us
    • Beyond them and us
    • Beyond negative definitions
    • Beyond partnerships
    Future Myth
  • 120.
    • ‘ Mainstream’ the third space:
      • one workforce (and one term)
      • one focus
      • one set of values
      • co-creation
      • complementary skills
      • interdependence
      • rewrite the rule book, not perpetuate the stereotype
      • ‘ the enemy is without, not within’
    Future Myth
  • 121. Future myth: phoenix rising from the ashes?
  • 122. Future myth: The androgynous professional?
  • 123.
    • 1 Thou shalt respect your colleagues’ perspectives.
    • 2 Thou shalt take a big picture view of your industry, past, present and future.
    • 3 Thou shalt recognise that the knowledge and expertise needed to run institutions is great and needs blending of skills for the future.
    • 4 Thou shalt remember that a PhD is not the only indicator of intelligence.
    My 10 commandments…
  • 124.
    • 5 All university work is of equal value.
    • 6 Work of equal value means equal conditions.
    • 7 Decisions shalt be made collaboratively.
    • 8 Leaders shalt promote co-creation of work.
    • 9 Governments and institutions and ATEM shalt work together to develop new terminology.
    • 10 There shalt be no future divide – ever!
    My 10 commandments…
  • 125.
    • Now is counterproductive
    • Now is not sustainable
    • Build a sense of urgency about a common future for university staff
  • 126. We have to re-write the rule book…
  • 127. And, we have to do it today.
  • 128.
    • Thanks to ATEM for funding this research.
    • Thanks to everyone who participated.
    • Data collection continuing until end October (online survey):
      • http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/66193/academic-administrator-divide
    • Paper being prepared for JHEPM
    • Want a copy of this preso and/or the paper? [email_address]
  • 129.
    • Do we really understand the nature of the ‘administrative’ role in universities?
    • Do we understand the impact of professionalisation on that role on administrators themselves, on academics and on university work?
    Work and Roles
  • 130.
    • Do academics and administrators understand each other’s work?
    • Are they mutually independent?
    • Do they have different but complementary roles in delivering teaching and learning?
    Work and Roles
  • 131.
    • Are perceived differences in values implicit in administrative work?
    • Are values really that different?
    • Does managerialism ‘force’ a way of operating which appears antithethical?
    Values