Friday, 25 January 2013

Administrative bloat at universities

This is a topic much discussed at universities ........ by non-administrators. Arnold Kling writes at his askblog blog
In universities, I would argue that the growth in administrators is symptomatic, not an independent cause. The problem is what is known in the software business as scope creep or feature bloat. The more you add features to software, the more complex it becomes, and the harder it becomes to manage. Organizations are the same way.

Universities, like government, add new programs with alacrity, while almost never discarding old programs. Any university today has many more majors, many more activities, and many more technologies in use than was the case 30 years ago.

How do you introduce efficiency and cost saving at universities? Narrow scope and reduce features. Do students choose your school because of the chemistry department? If not, then get rid of it. Better to have three excellent departments than dozens of mediocre ones. Let students take courses on line in the ones that you do not cover.
The basic point is that if you really want to reduce administrative overhead, you have to think in terms of radically reducing scope. The downside of trying to do this is the fight you would get from powerful groups of insiders who have much to loose. Canterbury has tried to get rid of academic programs and has been far from successful at it. Interestingly even when academic staff do go the number of administrators that go seems much less.

1 comment:

Eric Crampton said...

My problem with Arnold's post is that he attributed some of the bloat to Universities picking up non-core functions like sports programmes. But NZ has very similar administrative bloat, but far less of the scope creep.