By Paul Abela, Executive Director, ATEM

In the early years as executive director of the Association for Tertiary Education Management (ATEM) I confess to exploiting a feeling that was widespread throughout professional staff members in tertiary education management – that their role was always adjunct or not as important as that of academics.

Any presentation that reflected a sense that professional managers were really only second class compared to academics was always met with nodding agreement and then with follow up stories in private.

I used the analogy often of movie star academics who received the star billing but who could only do so by being supported by lighting directors, best boys, grips and sound engineers.

People who have worked in the sector for 30 years will have felt the seismic shift from elite to mass education, from small universities and CAEs to large corporate enterprises, from budgets moving from millions to billions.

Right alongside the shift has been the rise and rise of the professional staff manager. The number of full time equivalent professional staff in 2016 was about 69,000 – up from 45,000 in 1996. The number of full time equivalent academic staff in 2016 was about 58,000 – up from 35,000 in 1996 according to graphs from Universities Australia.

Dividing work into increasingly specialised areas, universities have position titles like Student Experience Transition managers, or Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotion managers, titles so intricately specialised and sophisticated as to show a real maturing in the profession.

ATEM’s own surveys (2016) show a great love for the profession, with career-minded individuals understanding the importance of their work and with longevity in the career a sought-after preference.

81 per cent said their job was a great source of satisfaction for them; 82 per cent said they found their job rewarding.

Our latest ATEM journalThe Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management (JHEPM), April 2018 – is typical of where the attitude of the now profession sits.

Heather Davis and Carroll Graham, in the Practice-Led Research edition, express a clear view that: “It is useful to think work in tertiary education management as undertaken to a greater or lesser extent by all who work in the sector – rather than perpetuate any us and them divide”.

The continued blurring of the lines between academia and professional managers is indicative of a nuanced and complex higher education landscape. Academics who are tasked with managing always have been a part of the landscape – but doing so in more complex times challenges university administrations and puts a reliance on exceptional professional staff.

Collaboration between academic managers and professional staff is critical.
As ATEM president Carl Rallings explains: “ATEM is for the fellow traveller. A place to find like-minded professional leaders and assist each other to prosper through the sharing of best practice”

ATEM has for 42 years promoted best practice in tertiary education management. As a membership organisation it believes in the power of networking and optimal mentoring for emerging leaders and managers. It also believes in recognising great work.

So, it is no surprise that ATEM introduced an important recognition for the sector in 2012 with the staging of the first best practice awards in tertiary education management. We debated whether or not to make the awards competitive, but we are glad we did as it revealed the fantastic innovative work being undertaken in the sector.

The awards seek to recognise the work of professional staff, not only for individual projects by long time careerists in the sector.

Both professional staff and academic managers have won awards. They are unashamedly focussed on those areas of the tertiary education enterprise which make it function.

In 2018 the Best Practice Awards are

The LH Martin Institute Award for Excellence in Leadership
ResearchMaster Award for Excellence in Research Management
UniSuper Award for Excellence in Governance and Policy
The  Award for Excellence in Innovation
UniBank Award for Excellence in Marketing Communication and Public Relations
AHEIA Award for Excellence in People and Culture
 DVE Business Solutions Award for Excellence in School and Faculty Management
The Award for Excellence in Student Engagement
 Engagement Australia Award for Excellence in Community Engagement
The Universities Admissions Centre Award for Excellence in Student Engagement

The  Award for the Outstanding Achiever 2018

ATEM offers more than 85 programs including seven conferences per year, and lately we have been sought out by other HE groups to assist with conferences and to work as the umbrella organisation for the professional sector.

The Tertiary Education Management conference held in Melbourne in 2017 attracted 912 delegates – a number to rival any higher education conference held in Australasia. It was delivered by a volunteer local organising committee at the forefront of innovation.

In recognising the importance of a high profile for these awards, it seems natural to team up with Campus Morning Mail. Now delivering daily news into thousands of professional managers inboxes, CMM seems like the natural fit for the promotion of these prestigious awards.

The ATEM/Campus Morning Mail best practice awards in tertiary education management will celebrate its winners in Perth in September.


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