Way more managers in Aus unis

The proportion of professional staff numbers at Australian universities stayed much the same over 20 years – but there are fewer people employed to support academics

Peter Woelert and Gwilym Croucher (both Uni Melbourne) crunched HE employment data to find that across the system middle management numbers grew by 122 per cent between 1997 and 2018. Senior management positions were up 110 per cent. In contrast, staff in support roles declined from 44 per cent to 13 per cent.

They suggest the change in the mix could be due to universities responding to government reporting requirements, pressure to perform on rankings and “stagnation” in public funding for student places which has led institutions to pursue “entrepreneurial agendas.” Automation and outsourcing also account for a decline in support staff.

The authors point to “important implications” from staffing trends.

*  despite stable numbers, the cost of the non-academic workforce has progressively increased

*  the adoption of corporate “techniques and solutions” 

* the increased administration burden of managerial reporting systems

The Australian university experience, they suggest, “seems to trouble” the policy narrative that “increases in organisational competition and in managerial and financial autonomy for universities will automatically translate into greater organisational efficiency and effectiveness.”

* Gwilym Croucher and Peter Woelert, “Administrative transformation and managerial growth: a longitudinal analysis of changes in the non-academic workforce at Australian universities,” Higher Education (published on-line September 11)