Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Higher Education and the American Dream

 | 
Marvin Lazerson

Part II. Governance and Managerial Dilemmas

Chapter 4. Managerial imperatives

Texte intégral

Colleges have added managers and support personnel at a steady, vigorous clip over the past 20 years, new research shows, far outpacing the growth in student enrollment and instructors….[The findings] raise questions about priorities and provide fresh ammunition for critics of supercharged spending. Even before the recession, colleges were under pressure as students and parents reeled from tuition hikes, and policy makers questioned where the money went.
(Brainard, Fain, and Maserson, 2009)

1Before I became dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in 1987, I gave little thought to managing educational institutions. University managers, it seemed to me, were people who could be more or less helpful and often annoying, especially when it involved students and my own research grants. Deans and departmental chairs could obviously be useful or not when it came to granting special favors, like extra time off to do research or providing small amounts of research funds and obviously in recommending one for promotion. Still the overwhelming sense I had was that both academic and non-academic managers had little to do with my daily life as a professor. Of university presidents and provosts, I knew virtually nothing.

2Within a matter of months as a dean—without any prior managerial experience—I quickly discovered how naïve, even stupid, I was. The institutional managers were in fact shaping many of the most critical decisions in the university. Some examples:

  • University planners were profoundly influential in determining capital expenditures and the campus’s physical growth. Which buildings were to be renovated, what new buildings were built and where, were instrumental decisions that shaped what schools or departments had status and which ones did not. It was not always a zero sum game, but more often then not, capital expenditure decisions involved winners and losers.
  • Budget managers determined the parameters within which everyone worked. The fiscal consequences of decisions being made by deans, as decided by those overseeing budgets, determined what academic units could and could not do. Faculty and deans could propose new professorial appointments, but final say was almost always shaped by budget managers, who regularly pointed out what the fiscal costs of academic decisions were going to be over multiple years and that these had a way of compounding annually.
  • Student services managers oversaw an extraordinary array of activities involving large numbers of students and sums of money. The students themselves often felt much more engaged in these activities than they did in their academic work. Because such services were one of the university’s selling points to incoming students, in part a product of the intense competition for students, the decisions by the student services staff were considered exceedingly important and they occurred pretty much independent of faculty and academic oversight.
  • Development officers were crucial to the university’s long-term fiscal success; even more so was the president’s desire and capacity to bring in money. Since the university was in a constant fundraising mode—always starting, engaged in, or planning a new campaign— the development office existed as a permanent presence in the life of the university and in the life of every school and division of the university. The quality of the development officers and who they ‘worked for’ meant that some things got funded and others did not.
  • Administrative staff made the implementation of every single decision, including every faculty decision, possible. What the staff believed were bad decisions or when the staff was not very competent meant that implementation could fall by the wayside. Without good staff in place, academic programs could continue, but they would be subject to continuing bureaucratic frustration.
  • Legal staff, information technology experts, counseling and medical staff, research administrators, human resources personnel, and countless other service providers were quite simply crucial. The institution could not function without them.

3Over the years, these early impressions simply got reinforced, and the quality of managers and service providers became a touchstone of my work as an administrator and professor (Lazerson, Wagener, and Moneta, 2000). These developments, as so much else in higher education, are worldwide: they reflect phenomena evolving almost everywhere. As Altbach, Reisberg, and Rumbley (2009, pp. 69–70) write: “A clear shift has occurred in government laws and regulations dealing with public universities in the last decade or two in many Canadian provinces and virtually all American states, in some European countries (notably the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), and very recently in China and Japan—all in the direction of greater managerial autonomy and flexibility. These efforts have frequently transformed public universities from simple government agencies into public corporations, giving the management new authority and sometimes corporate-style governing boards coupled with new accountability requirements. These new developments for greater managerial autonomy and flexibility—essentially moving toward managerial models associated with private enterprise—are collectively referred to as new public management and are designed to maximize the university’s teaching and research outputs for the public as well as to provide incentives for maximizing nongovernmental revenue.”

4These developments in the United States and elsewhere have led me to a set of ‘managerial imperatives,’ challenges that every higher education institution has to fulfill in order to be successful. They are quite different than the usual items listed in reference to high quality institutions—the liturgy elaborated over and over of excellent faculty and excellent students. These are important, and I do not want to downgrade them. We are not talking about a tradeoff in which strong managers and well-developed managerial structures mean less adequate faculty and mediocre students. Quite the opposite; over the long haul a failure to take account of these managerial imperatives leaves an institution vulnerable to irregularities of markets in highly competitive environments. Meeting managerial challenges simply makes the institution stronger, more stable, and more capable of implementing what it wants to do than otherwise.

5The most obvious way to phrase this is to say that many of the critical issues facing higher education institutions over the next decades will come in the form of leadership and managerial challenges that involve designing, organizing, and implementing change, assessing outcomes, and engaging in readjustments. These need to be viewed as continuing processes and not, as is too often the case, single decisions that are to be reviewed at some time in the future. The challenges require attention to institutional and organizational structures or else the intellectual, policy, and practical goals may well get lost or obstructed. It is a mistake, a terrible mistake, to underestimate the imperatives of meeting these managerial challenges.

4.1 The challenge of curriculum and instructional reforms

6Overwhelmingly curricula and instructional debates involve some combination of intellectual and academic knowledge, considerations of the market for students, and political power. Each of these has face-value validity. That is, what students should learn and how they should be taught are intellectual issues, about what learning is most valuable and how instruction should occur, about the state of particular academic disciplines, about new forms of knowledge, and about the nature of integrating knowledge across disciplines or fields of study. In terms of curriculum and teaching, the questions are also about what kind of learning will be attractive to students or, in the case of professional education, what kinds of knowledge will best prepare students to enter the professional labor market. The third ingredient, which is recognizable to anyone who has taken part in curriculum and teaching reform efforts, is the way the debates and decisions are barely disguised uses of power, as in departments rejecting changes that will diminish their importance in the university or college. When the latter dominates, the most common result is stasis, at best modest shifts in the curriculum landscape without any substantial change. Overall, outcomes depend very much upon the interactions between faculty values and goals, the market for students, and the distribution of power within the institution (Cuban, 1999).

7Less obvious is that whatever decisions are made by curriculum committees and professors, their implementation requires institutional leadership and managerial structures. Once a curriculum is decided, how should its implementation proceed and who should do it in what time frame? These are obvious questions, which are too often unaddressed in other than vague ways, as in “the new curriculum should be fully implemented within the next 3 years.” What constitutes genuine implementation? Again, an obvious question usually answered by numbers of credits to be taken by students, and almost never answered by “we will decide outcome measures to test the quality of implementation.” Who and how will the institution decide whether the changes in curriculum and instruction are improvements, achieve their goals—if indeed clear goals are articulated— or need to be further revised? Again, usually unanswered, because they are unasked.

8If the above seems heavy-handed, it is, but not excessively so. The basic point remains valid: while curriculum and teaching reforms emerge out of multiple pressures and expectations, the managerial side of the process, actually implementing the decisions in a timely and effective manner, is treated as a side-bar, something that will more or less happen because the faculty says it should happen. Once the faculty decides, the process is thrown to administrators to manage and they in turn hand it off to managerial staff. There is nothing wrong with this; there is something horrifying in contemplating professors being required to manage curriculum details. They often have a hard enough time getting their course grades to registrars in a timely manner. What is wrong is the failure to acknowledge how important—how imperative—the managerial process is to the most basic of faculty decisions—what the curriculum should look like.

4.2 The challenge of serving students

9The tremendous numbers of students and their increasing diversity, the large tuition charges leveled upon students and their families, and the now intense impact of vocationalism—the great expectations of jobs and fiscal returns at the end of the road—mean that students expect to be better served than ever before. How these expectations are expressed vary. They range from demands for smaller classes, better instruction, and curriculum choices more closely connected to labor markets. Further they want better access to high quality technology, career counseling, more modern classrooms and laboratories, as well as a host of life-style amenities like improved living arrangements, better food, recreational and athletic facilities, and countless large and small clubs and student organizations. What used to be called “the extra-curriculum” has now been renamed “the co-curriculum” to signify its heightened importance, which has been one of the most striking higher education developments of the last half century, leading to the creation of a huge, largely independent complex of student services. It is hard from the outside to imagine—and indeed even for many who work within higher education— how important student services have become to an institution’s success.

10What is striking about the development of student services is how little knowledge of them exists within most universities and colleges. These are not areas with which professors and even most university leaders are well-acquainted. Invariably, whenever concerns about an institution’s finances come up, the almost instinctive reaction is to suggest cuts in student services, as if this was an area that had superfluous funds and besides, such services are seen as not being essential to the institution’s mission. This is nonsense, since the idea of leaving the emerging and often complicated issues facing students to anyone other than trained student service professionals comes close to being ludicrous. Such a decision would leave student concerns in a kind of nether world; everyone knows they are out there, but no one really has responsibility for them. In fact, appropriate and proactive responses to student issues may well be a fundamental measure of the overall health of a university or college. If they are mismanaged, what students expect can quickly take on political dimensions in ways that neither serves them nor the university well.

11Much of this was made clear to me through my efforts to change the relationship between student services and academic programs. At a meeting with departmental chairs in the School of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the University of Pennsylvania’s schools, in my role as Interim Provost I expressed concern about what I took to be the lack of a serious relationship between the co-curriculum and the academic responsibilities of the university. I then announced to the chairs that I intended to develop closer ties between student services and academic programs, explaining, among other things, that I was hoping we could develop “living and learning residence halls” in which students could take courses and faculty might affiliate with or in some cases, live within these halls. My ideas were exceedingly well received and I was quite pleased with how the meeting was evolving, until a departmental chair proceeded to speak, as he said, on behalf of his colleagues, congratulating me on finally moving to cut the student services budget and to transfer money to the academic departments—which was not what I had in mind at all. In subsequent conversations with students I shared my ideas and got a highly negative response for exactly the same reason. The students assumed, like the departmental chairs, that this was camouflage to disguise the fact that I was going to cut the student services budget and give the saved money to professors. Unlike the departmental chairs, they were furious, in no uncertain terms, saying that the professors had little to no interest in them and that I seemed to be intent on destroying student life at the university. With a better understanding, I retreated from the front lines and proceeded to support others who somewhat later successfully implemented a living and learning program.

12There are problems with student services and academic programs and co-curriculum activities are not one and the same. Student services have built up over the years in what often seemed like efforts to accommodate almost every request from student groups— somewhat like parents who would rather agree to support their children than face a confrontation. In the competitive world of higher education, any institution runs an enormous risk if it gets labeled “unfriendly to students.” It is also clear that students and professors have different lives, different expectations, and the right to be free of one another. But the essential message is that student services are now an integral feature of higher education institutions, and they are sufficiently important to be taken seriously and managed well. That means well-trained, well-paid staff in the context of a well-run organizational structure. Anything less is, quite simply, dumb.

4.3 The challenge of research management

13The research enterprise has changed dramatically in the last decades. While there are still scholars who work alone at their desks or in libraries, without much more than their computers and without research funding, they are a diminishing breed. The research enterprise is now driven by scholarly teams working across disciplines, across educational institutions, across national boundaries, and almost always with externally generated research funding—and the amounts count in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Accounting and auditing requirements, legal and ethical constraints, office and laboratory space, evaluations and reporting obligations, travel and equipment needs, technology transfer and patent procedures, and the complexity of keeping track of who is doing what and when have led just about every higher education institution with a serious research component to create an office of research administration, as well as every research unit having its own research administrators. The research enterprise cannot function without them. They are not going to go away, and they are likely to become even more important in the future.

14Managing research goes beyond simply keeping track of things, however. External research funding, especially contract research with corporations and government or non-government agencies, almost always carries with it expectations that the outcome will be a product, and that the product will appear in a timely fashion. Failure to produce within the contract’s deadlines or producing low quality products has consequences, from the obvious of receiving no additional money, to the possible demand that funding be returned. Researchers have their own stake in this. Who wants to be known as a researcher who either fails to fulfill the terms of a contract or produces shoddy work? The institution’s stake may be even higher, since almost all contracts are formal entities between the higher education institution and the funding agency. The institution is at risk when money is squandered, behavior is unethical, or the quality falls below minimal standards.

15All of this may sound relatively simple. It is not. Ethical, legal, and financial questions abound, and they rarely have simple answers or can be answered by non-professionals. When do the requirements of a research contract fall into the category of “secret?” Who owns the results of the research? Scholars with grants to write books almost always retain the right to the royalties, which come with book publications— provided the publisher sells enough books. But what about goods and products sold directly over the Internet, or in companies set up outside the university, which depend upon research done by professors? Higher education has always depended upon the free exchange of ideas. Corporations and sometimes government agencies seek to keep tight control over information, especially when they pay for it. Can university researchers be bound by requirements not to publish the results of the research for a certain number of years? Is the exclusive right to the findings for 5 years acceptable? Does 2 years make it better? If there is a possibility of financial gain from the results of the research, how should the university and/or the principal researcher or members of the research team share in that gain? The competition for research funding and status also means that the pressure to produce results is intense, especially when the funding comes from agencies that have a serious stake in certain outcomes as opposed to others. This too requires oversight, as scandals over data tampering make clear.

16Serious questions are also likely to emerge about the status and income of well-funded researchers. Are they to be held to the same levels of accountability in teaching courses as non-research funded professors? Or is the system that research matters above everything else, or more accurately, that externally funded research matters enormously to the institution—for the dollars it brings, for the prestige attached to big grants—so that individuals who can amass such sums are disproportionately rewarded? There are already, in almost every higher education institution differentiated salaries—by perceived merit, by discipline or fields of study, and by level of externally funded research, with rewards that often take the form of summer research money or extra time off from teaching and other institutional responsibilities. These differentiations are fairly complicated and for many, they seem quite opaque. On the other hand, one could argue they represent relatively simple transactions: The differentiations primarily reflect some combination of talent, market leverage, and the capacity to bring money to the institution. Taken together, they tend to create a multi-track system in which there are losers and winners.

17Among the many occasions this was brought home to me, one stands out. I was negotiating a contract to serve as the University of Pennsylvania’s interim provost during a particularly difficult and controversial time in the university’s history. The president offered me a salary to which I responded, “If I was the dean of the business or medical school, the offer would be much higher.” His response was essentially, you are the dean of the education school not the business or medical school. The salary offer stands.

18The issues related to research are obviously not simply managerial. As former Harvard President Derek Bok (2003) suggests, they are about the soul of higher education institutions. Externally funded contracts in particular raise questions about the very soul of higher education, what it stands for, what it is willing to sell, and what it loses in integrity by making the sale. But the managerial challenges do not go away just because there are philosophical and financial issues. Indeed, making sure that an institution does a research contract right may lie very much with those professionals who are not doing the research—their professional competence and authority to manage the process.

4.4 The challenge of money

19Maybe it is all about money. It is not a far step to characterize what has occurred in the last few decades through the words of the song from Cabaret: “Money makes the world go round, makes the world go round.” It certainly has seemed that way. The only thing that really seemed to matter was the money, as colleges and universities did everything possible to bring in greater and greater amounts. With costs rising, money became the engine of progress. For public higher education institutions, this was exceedingly difficult. Growing fiscal pressures on states from health, infrastructure repairs, primary and secondary education, prisons, and social services combined with growing numbers of students enrolling to strain state higher education budgets. This combined with a second phenomenon: the tendency to view higher education as a private good, that is, as something that benefited the individual who attended college or university and thus the individual should carry a greater proportion of the cost. The states reduced the proportion of public higher education budgets they had previously paid as well as spending proportionally less taxpayer dollars on higher education, while individuals paid more in the form of higher tuition and fees, as well as having to take out loans rather than receiving scholarships and grants. For private institutions, the calculus was simpler: charge whatever the market would pay, and provide enough scholarships and loans so that students would keep enrolling. The families would pay the rest.

20The result of all of this was a spiraling, seemingly out of control, search for and dependence upon money. As a consequence, how to manage all that money became a major dilemma. Who would decide where the money would go? Who would keep track of what was spent and where? Who would file the reports showing fiscal accountability? Who would make sure the money kept coming in? The traditional pattern of pretty much reporting that the “money was well spent” or listing expenditures in relatively benign broad categories so no one really knew where it had gone gave way to much more rigorous forms of fiscal accountability. In effect, people who could bring in money and people who knew how to manage money, both in the sense of overseeing its expenditure and of investing for high returns, has become a defining condition of higher education institutions.

21Although there is something distasteful about the hell-bent determination to have more and more money, in fact, higher education institutions are competing in a marketplace where they have to offer incentives to entice their constituents. For faculty, this means higher salaries, research and technology support, better working conditions, subsidized health insurance and pension plans—or during periods of financial crisis, simply holding on to what one has. For students, it means more of the things they already have at home or wished that they had. For staff, it means competitive salaries, tuition-free courses, and the same ancillaries that captured the attention of faculty, as well as keeping their jobs. The complexity of the financial system and the amounts associated with it require more and better professional oversight. Colleges and universities cannot do without it.

22The financial crash in 2009 simply reinforced this reality. The loss of huge amounts of money—often amounting to 20 percent or more of annual expenditures—through deteriorating investment returns, sharp declines in state funding, and the initial resistance to raising tuition and other charges meant that those managers who know how to invest in depressed money markets, who understand how to cut costs and modify expenditure patterns, who can make judgments about capital investments and delayed infrastructure improvements, who understand how to negotiate new work patterns or to lower health care costs or to increase productivity became sources of gold, because their decisions can keep institutions from badly deteriorating or even, in the worst of circumstances, from closing. In prosperous times, those who understand the full range of ways to manage money are exceedingly valuable. In bad fiscal times, they become indispensable.

4.5 The challenge of educational quality

23Deciding what constitutes educational quality is no easy task. It is complex and almost always controversial. Yet it has also become one of the major developments of the first decade of the 21st century. Taking on global significance, as higher education systems have been stretched to their limits by students seeking access, the notion of quality and how to determine what educational quality is, are becoming pervasive features of institutional life. As Altbach, Reisberg, and Rumbley (2009, Ch. 4) note: “Quality assurance has become a rapidly growing concern in a context of ongoing change in higher education around the world. At the same time, defining and measuring quality usefully has become more difficult. As the higher education landscape has become more complex, so have the expectations of individual institutions. In addition to educating, tertiary-level institutions have assumed (and been assigned) a broader social role—including resolving social inequities, providing appropriately trained labor, contributing to regional and national economic growth, and producing marketable research.” What does it then mean to have and assess educational quality?

24Like most such questions, it used to be easier to provide an answer. Certainly, in the decades after World War II, questions of educational quality were pretty much the prerogative of professors, both in the sense of individual professors creating and delivering their own courses and evaluating student work and in the sense of professors within a faculty or department defining the requirements for the major, diploma, certificate, or degree. Even though regional accreditation agencies have existed for decades, their focus on the easily measurable—books in the library, number of faculty with doctorates, e.g.—meant that in the crucial dimension of student learning, the professors reigned supreme. Tests of educational quality given by external authorities, as in state-wide professional licensing examinations in a host of subjects, in practice did little to challenge professorial authority to assess quality of learning. In effect, the professors created the curriculum, determined the requirements of each course, graded (or supervised graduate students who graded) the papers and tests. These were, by and large, the determinants of quality.

25The trend of colleges and universities to more closely align their programs with labor markets, the growth in the authority of accreditation bodies to shape what a university offers and how it determines its success, the determination of government agencies to assure themselves that higher education funding is producing appropriate learning outcomes, and the tendency of students to “shop around” among institutions, taking a few courses here and a few from several other places (including internet courses) have greatly complicated the process of determining quality, and it has shifted some of the decision-making authority about quality away from the professors teaching the subjects. Professors still make the critical decisions; they establish the curriculum and students are primarily judged on basis of faculty-created and -graded papers, projects, and tests. But professors are now much more in the line of vision of groups and agencies external to the college and university within which they teach. They are more frequently than previously themselves being tested by the emergence of externally developed standardized tests or by internally developed outcome measures, designed to assess “quality added” or “performance indicators.” In effect, these tests ask whether the students have actually learned something of what the professors have taught, and the tests may even be designed to determine what the external examiners believe the professors should teach. And, because college and university teachers are in greater numbers than ever before being hired on part-time and short-term contracts, making them even more vulnerable to external evaluations, power over the determination of educational quality is likely to shift even further away from the instructors.

26So, what has this to do with managerial challenges? More than what might seem obvious. For one, these trends greatly complicate the roles of institutional leaders who have to become much more effective mediators between faculties and external bodies. This is especially delicate because increasingly external agencies are looking for more than tests of what is learned in classrooms, seeking to ask questions about the adequacy of professional preparation for the labor market or wanting to know how strong the students’ communication skills, technological competence, and thinking capabilities are. Second, since the whole debate about educational quality sometimes looks more like a mini-war than a discussion, it has to be managed. That is, if colleges and universities are not to fall into nihilistic ways of behaving, with all sides acting as if they are surrounded by the enemy, then questions about what constitutes added educational quality, about how it should be measured and by whom have to be answered. They will not be answered simply by the faculty voting that such and such should or should not happen. Whatever the faculty decides will have to be mediated and negotiated with external bodies, will have to be refashioned into a program of action, implemented, and assessed, with the assessments leading to behavioral changes. The pressure to determine educational quality is not going to diminish, which means that the process described above is not a one-shot deal. It will have to be revised and refined and gone through multiple times. If all of this is not a managerial challenge, I do not know what is.

4.6 Managing information and communications technology

27It is hard to think of a development that has received more attention, is suffused with so much promise, seems always to be on the edge of leading the revolution, invariably costs more than anticipated, and never seems to do quite what its proponents say it will do, other than information technology. It is absolutely necessary to the future of higher education, it opens up horizons on an almost daily basis that were unimaginable just a short while ago, including the capacity to reach millions of people around the globe and to make the vague conception of life-long learning a concrete reality. Information technology has changed libraries, redefined research, made borderless education possible.

28It has provided opportunities for administrative, managerial, and financial services to become more effective. And, yet with all the changes and the possibilities, most colleges and universities look pretty much the same, and information technology seems to function more or less as colorful lecture and class notes posted on a screen and as a way of managing registration, grading patterns, and the countless other forms of data required in higher education. In short, information and communications technology are most often used to do what higher education has always done.

29Many of the possibilities and challenges of the new technologies go beyond a simple assertion of managerial responsibilities. For example, it is now increasingly clear that the capacity to pay the financial costs needed to create first class services is unequally distributed. Rich institutions can provide quality services; poor ones are barely able to provide basic computing services. To the extent that quality of information technology will have a substantial effect on people’s lives, financially stressed institutions are under serving their students, and may have minimal opportunity to change that. While the resources can be managed to use money more efficiently and effectively, managers cannot by themselves create the resources necessary for high quality technology. That lies in the realm of public policies committed to diminishing levels of financial inequality. Managers can, however, apply what funds are available in focused ways dedicated to learning rather than the all too often tendency to put administrative concerns at the top of the technology agenda.

30This need for focus is much more fundamental than most people, especially the modern prophets of expansive use of information and communications technology, are willing to admit. In the rush to join the crowd, almost everything gets put on the table. Student services require more and better technological applications, research requires instant investments, fiscal planning and financial accountability demand substantial resources, teaching cannot be done without totally wired classrooms and laboratories, instant communication is the heartbeat of every institution and organization, and just about every individual needs new hardware and software— students, staff, faculty. In the highly competitive world of higher education, everything is needed immediately and all at once. Indeed, in the frenzy it often seems as if the soul of the university or college is its technological resources. The result is what one would predict: high expectations and disappointing realities.

31Leadership and management goals in all of this ought to be quite simple, at least in terms of articulating them. What exactly does an institution want, how will it pay for it, and who will manage the implementation? How will anyone know what works and, even more important, since very few things ever really work as planned, how can it be improved? In this, two things are quite important. The first is some integrity in articulating fiscal costs. I know of very few technology-based initiatives in which the costs were over-estimated— I actually cannot think of any. The reasons for this are not hard to guess. Costs remain vague in part because clarity about purposes— what exactly do you want to accomplish—is rare, and so money is spent in search of goals. Moreover, those who present the likely costs are almost always the same people pushing the project. If you want the money, you do not tell people how much it is likely to cost. Vague goals and self-interested promoters conspire to understate the financial needs. Since this behavior occurs with regard to every information and communications technology effort, the results are vastly underestimated financial requirements across the board, followed by the search for yet more money or the need to cut expenses on the fly, both leading to little thought as to what really matters, and widespread disappointment and failed expectations— which were themselves exaggerated at the start in order to get support for the project. And one asks why we so often have the feeling that the technology revolution just isn’t getting the job done.

32A second problem lies in the unwillingness of leaders to make difficult choices, especially ones that involve focusing on learning. Sometimes this has to do with the consultative nature of most higher education institutions. Widespread consultation usually leads to “add-ons,” that is, the process of simply adding recommendations to proposals that blur the goals and increase costs. Often the problem derives from leadership’s lack of expertise; most university and college leaders actually do not know very much about technology. But in the end, the real issue is that colleges and university leaders do not really think that learning is central to the institution. I know this seems paradoxical: Why else do higher education institutions exist? But the genuine reality is that the requirements of running the institution, generating revenues for it, and meeting the extraordinary range of responsibilities that currently weigh on higher education institutions, means that learning is just one of those things that has to be taken into account. But learning as the central focus of technological and costly investments? Not really!

4.7 Managing the managers

33All of the above may sound like an extended call for more institutional managers, something that many within and outside of higher education find deplorable to the extent of outrage. One widely-held view is that universities are already over-managed, with too many bureaucrats whose primary goal seems to be to make life difficult for professors and students alike and whose presence diverts substantial amounts of money away from the institution’s academic goals. The financial crisis of 2009 gave weight to this view and the calls to reduce the weight of bureaucracy and bureaucrats are legion (Brainard, Fain, and Masterson, 2009). The tendency of universities and colleges to hire increasing proportions of part-time instructors in order to cut costs further intensifies the attacks on over-man - aged institutions concerned only about money. The fact is that higher education is an industry whose constituent parts—universities and colleges—have to be managed if they are to survive and flourish, and walking away from that reality is naïve and quite stupid. The challenges described above make clear that more managers will be needed and that they are likely to posses even more power than they have currently. The challenge is not simply to add more professional staff in light of the demands placed on the institution by current and likely future trends, and thus giving substance to the complaints of bureaucratic institutions, but to look clearly at the genuine managerial requirements needed to lead increasingly complex universities and colleges. It seems clear that leaders in all institutions will need to take greater responsibility for overseeing their own managers, creating structures that might allow managerial professionals to become genuine members of the university community, a task of enormous complexity.

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540