Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Administrative Blight" Plagues Nation's Colleges

Inside Higher Ed reports today on a new book "The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters" (Oxford University Press), by Benjamin Ginsberg, Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. 

Professor Ginsberg "takes stock of what ails higher education and finds a single, unifying cause: the growth of administration."  Here are some excerpts of the review:

"Ginsberg bemoans the expansion over the past 30 years of what he calls "administrative blight" as personified by what he characterizes as an army of "deanlets" and "deanlings." By virtue of their sheer number and their managerial rather than academic orientation, Ginsberg argues, these administrators have served to marginalize the faculty in carrying out tasks related to personnel and curriculum that once sat squarely in their domain.

He provides data showing that the growth in the ranks of administrators (85 percent) and associated professional staff (240 percent) has far outstripped the increase in faculty (51 percent) between 1975 and 2005. "Generally speaking," he writes, "a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.”

The larger result, he argues, is that universities have shifted their resources and attention away from teaching and research in order to feed a cadre of administrators who, he says, do little to advance the central mission of universities and serve chiefly to inflate their own sense of importance by increasing the number of people who report to them."

"Armies of staffers pose a threat by their very existence," he wrote. "They may seem harmless enough at their tiresome meetings but if they fall into the wrong hands, deanlets can become instruments of administrative imperialism and academic destruction." 


At 7/14/2011 10:08 AM, Blogger al fin said...

It's even worse than that. With all the administrative and bureaucratic work that faculty are forced to perform, actual time for teaching and research gets squeezed.

Students? What's a student? Never heard of them.

At 7/14/2011 10:34 AM, Blogger Michael Hoff said...

It's hard for me to gin up sympathy for the likes of Ward Churchill and Peter Singer.

At 7/14/2011 11:13 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

the real problem with a "deanlet" (and i like that word) is that they need to justify their presence.

they are ALL predisposed to regulate, interfere, and add layers of cumbersome bureaucracy, because absent all that, you don't need 200 deanlets.

At 7/14/2011 12:11 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

"...administrative imperialism and academic destruction."

This describes the school district that my wife works in as a faculty member. The imperialist administration comes up with ever more convoluted schemes, to correct the prior scheme, that results in ever more academic destruction.

At 7/14/2011 12:19 PM, Blogger MattW said...

I'm interested in whether there's a difference in for-profit and non-profit higher education organizations. I've thought for a while that smart, ambitious people who are in non-profit and governmental organizations often express their talent by expanding their domain rather than increasing profits.

At 7/14/2011 12:22 PM, Blogger geoih said...

Waaa! You get the college you ask for.

Most Universities don't have to generate a profit or satisfy their customers. The government subsidizes them at every turn (direct payments, student loans, government research, etc.) and they don't pay taxes. So they grow endlessly, just like government. The faculty jealously protects their employment 'rights' and exclusive hierarchy. So where do you think the growth will occur? In administration. Plus, more administration mean less work load for the very select faculty and is a place for the most ambitious faculty to collect more power. Now the faculty discovers that the administrators are getting all the power. Well, waaa!

I'll cry the same tears for doctors when they discover what kind of deal they and the AMA have struck with government health care.

At 7/14/2011 12:35 PM, Blogger Innovation rules said...

A Faculty Productivity and Costs at The University of Texas at Austin report found, among other things:

1. Looking only at the UT Austin campus, if the 80 percent of the faculty with the lowest teaching loads were to teach just half as much as the 20 percent with the highest loads, and if the savings were dedicated to tuition reduction, tuition could be cut by more than half (or, alternatively, state appropriations could be reduced even more—by as much as 75 percent).
2. 20 percent of UT Austin faculty are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours. They also generate 18 percent of the campus’s research funding.
3. The least productive 20 percent of faculty teach only 2 percent of all student credit hours and generate a disproportionately smaller percentage of external research funding.
4. Research grant funds go almost entirely (99.8 percent) to a small minority (20 percent) of the faculty; only 2 percent of the faculty conduct 57 percent of funded research.

It appears there are many issues with higher education.

We have not even begun to talk about the lack of technology use. Recently professors from top ten schools on a popular education site were debating how to limit laptops in class because key strokes were distracting (seriously). They were also dismayed that students asked if the lecture could be emailed to them, which destroyed their incentive to come to class. Is there no better use of lecture time than to listen to a professor regurgitate his notes on Power Point? Good lord.

At 7/14/2011 1:11 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

innovation rules, you have provided very good factors that contribute to higher education costs. These need to be addressed, as well as substantial downsizing of the administration bureacuracy.

At 7/14/2011 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the role of administration and faculty in higher education is getting blurred. I have contracts to write curriculum as an administrator for online courses that used to be my job as an instructor just a couple of years ago.

The proliferation of online courses taught by multiple instructors in multiple locations in strict course rotations means that the course content must be standardized to meet the outcomes and pass national tests. One instructor alone just can’t do the job without using a detailed course outline and outcome template (content experts, curriculum experts, and IT experts work together to deliver the course content to students now). Yes, layers were added in non-faculty areas to make this happen.

As higher education moves away from brick-and-mortar institutions and more adjunct instructors to other delivery models, I think in just a few years any distinction between administrators and faculty will be gone. I am teaching myself game theory from a free online class from Yale sitting at home in my spare time. Aren’t the Internet and an inquiring mind great for motivated students instead of sitting in a stuffy classroom!

At 7/14/2011 4:00 PM, Blogger juandos said...

I'm curious about something regarding the onset of 'administrationitis' that seems to be such a problem...

Is any of this onset due to new requirements (in paperwork) set by local, state, or federal government?

At 7/14/2011 4:09 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos: "Is any of this onset due to new requirements (in paperwork) set by local, state, or federal government?"

You are asking a question to which you already know the answer.

But it's for the children!

At 7/14/2011 4:15 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/14/2011 4:17 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Every public organization bloats to the top, then ossifies.

Imagine the coprolite in these federal agencies:

Federal employees by agency: m

Department of Defense 3,000,000
Veterans Affairs 275,000
Homeland Security 250,000
Treasury 115,000
Justice 112,000
Energy 109,000
USDA 109,000
Interior 71,000

Labor 17,000
HUD 10,000
Education 4,487

And they get pensions, health care, sometimes after just 20 years of service.

At 7/14/2011 4:19 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"But it's for the children!"...


Oh my! That's very good Ron H...

Thanks, I needed the chuckle...

BTW thanks to Instapundit I just found this link on administrative bloat (haven't had a chance to look at it yet) from the Goldwater Institute: Administrative Bloat at American Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education

Note this bit: 'Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent'...

At 7/14/2011 6:28 PM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

Nothing prevents faculty from forming their own college or university. Getting accredited requires some administrative work, of course. However, historically, Oxford was formed to serve its masters. Cambridge was chartered for its teachers. Bologna was created to serve its students. In the mid-19th century, Ohio had more colleges than all of Europe. Back then, we had "academic freedom" because schools competed against each other. Within the walls, the Board (Presbyterian or Unitarian or Assembly of God, etc., etc.) set policy. Administrations were small.

Perhaps we only live in more complicated times.

In Hollywood, actors and others were tired of getting shafted by the studios, so they formed their own company: United Artists. How it is different from its competitors today is hard to say.

But, at root, if a faculty-driven school has any marginal competitive advantage, then let them form their organization and prove their utility in the marketplace.

At 7/14/2011 11:00 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Juandos: The issue of regulatory burden is discussed in the review at the Inside Higher Ed link.

At 7/15/2011 12:38 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Yeah Mark, I read this part: 'Not only does Ginsberg reject the idea that student needs are served by administrative growth, he dismisses the argument that this increase has been a necessary response to mounting demands from government and accreditors. He points out that the ratios of students to administrators vary widely from one institution to the next -- and even between public and private institutions (the rate of administrative growth at private colleges has, in fact, been double that at publics)' by Ginsburg and it sounds more anecdotal instead of factual...

Moses contradicts Ginsburg but neither of them offer anything tangible to back up their particlar points of view...

At 7/15/2011 3:41 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Does California lead the way in why there should be more admin on campus than actually some substantive teaching?

From the City Journal's Heather MacDonald: Less Academics, More Narcissism

Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing...

At 7/15/2011 4:57 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine."

Priorities. After all, which is more important, diversity, or education?


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