Reform universities by cutting their bureaucracies

Insight into the growth of bureaucracy in universities from The Conversation:

In earlier times, Oxford dons received all tuition revenue from their students and it’s been suggested that they paid between 15% and 20% for their rooms and administration. Subsequent central collection of tuition fees removed incentives for teachers to teach and led to the rise of the university bureaucracy.

Today, the bureaucracy is very large in Australian universities and only one third of university spending is allocated to academic salaries.

Across all the universities in Australia, the average proportion of full-time non-academic staff is 55%……….Australia is not alone as data for the United Kingdom shows a similar staffing profile with 48% classed as academics.

This is a fine example of Parkinson’s Law, first proposed by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a light-hearted essay in The Economist in 1955:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Parkinson cited the British Colonial Office as an example: the number of staff continued to grow even when Britain had divested itself of most of its colonies. He explained the growth as due to two factors in a bureaucracy:

  1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals; and
  2. Officials make work for each other.

He noted that bureaucracies tended to grow by between 5% and 7% a year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done” — even if the amount of work is declining.

Read more at Reform Australian universities by cutting their bureaucracies .