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HUMANE CONFERENCE University structures: Should form follow function? John Hogan Registrar Newcastle University.

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Presentation on theme: "HUMANE CONFERENCE University structures: Should form follow function? John Hogan Registrar Newcastle University."— Presentation transcript:

1 HUMANE CONFERENCE University structures: Should form follow function? John Hogan Registrar Newcastle University

2 Why academic structures matter Daniel Rich, Provost of the University of Delaware, Over the long term, the only meaningful bottom line for universities is academic success; any other bottom line ultimately renders universities vulnerable to displacement by other institutions that can and do provide non-academic services more effectively.

3 He went on to suggest that: The most important restructuring of universities will not be in business practices, but rather in the allocation of academic assets, and specifically in the appointment and organization of the faculty. Universities are communities of scholars; how those communities are constituted, how they operate, and what they produce define the character and greatly determine the success of universities. (p. 43) Rich, D. (2006) Academic Leadership and the restructuring of higher education New Directions for Higher Education 134 pp37-48

4 Problem of structures in Higher Education Universities are messy places. Titles organisational structures are not consistent. Focus on teaching – interdisciplinary research centres or institutes make research too complex!

5 Common academic structures in Higher Education Department a single disciplinary unit. School a larger scale, multi disciplinary. Faculty/College - a collection of departments/schools.

6 No perfect organisational form Problem of the artificial boundaries around departments, schools and faculties.

7 How frequently do structures change? A warning about the evidence in UK. Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Commonwealth Universities Yearbook 74% of UK universities underwent a significant academic reorganisation during the nine year period 1993 and During the five year period 2002 to %. Only six universities out of 81 had not under gone a major restructuring between 1993 and 2007.

8 UK Trends General trend to create a smaller number of larger academic units. General move away from an organisation based on academic departments. The role of the faculties as intermediate layers between the centre and departments. College/Faculty/School - Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton (for a while).

9 Faculties Traditionally, the dean was elected as a representative of the academic staff of the respective basic unit and often had great influence, but little power. Deans now have an executive function similar to the executive head and are usually appointed rather than elected. Deans exercise budgetary and other managerial functions and must increasingly balance the traditional role of protecting the interests of the academic staff with a strengthened managerial role. (Governance in Europe, 2008 p. 41)

10 Towards a common model? Convergence between the pre-and post-1992 sector. There are now numerous examples from across the former binary line of UK universities where teaching units are organised into 15 to 30 schools or departments clustered into three to five faculties or colleges. Indeed, this seems to be the most common organisational structure.

11 Why do universities restructure? Restructure either to improve the performance or adjust to changing environmental factors (student recruitment and funding changes for example). Much of the North American literature suggests that the academic structures are a rational outcome of the academic subject mix, size and nature of the HEI and that organisational structures change to meet changes in what counts as acknowledge Gumport, P. J. and Snydman, S. K. (2002) The formal organisation of knowledge: an analysis of academic structure, Journal of Higher Education 73 (3) pp

12 Evolution of academic disciplines Academic disciplines have a tendency to form sub-disciplines and over time to form separate groupings - Womens studies, ethnic studies, development studies, all grew in the 1970s and 1980s.

13 What determines academic structures? Shattock argued institutions age, disciplinary mix, physical location and size. Fashion or received ideas from industry or the public sector. Rare for organisational change to be driven educational ideas. Managing Successful Universities, 2003

14 Why do universities restructure? How best to allocate or distribute internal resources. Perceived lack of success. A reaction against previous organisational changes. The wishes of a new vice-chancellor. Communication and the desire to increase the responsiveness of the academic structures to management needs.

15 Difficult Issues Rise of faculties and the consequences for the composition of the senior management team. Widespread problems of internal communication.


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