Rosemary Deem and Rachel Johnson (2003) 'Risking the University? Learning to be a Manager-Academic in UK Universities'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 8, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/8/3/deem.html>
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Received: 26/6/2003 Accepted: 15/8/2003 Published: 31/08/2003
It's been the policy of the University not to take risks, as with most universities. Now, that's in direct contradiction to the concept of income generation [which] by its very nature, has certain risk elements to it ... You may see other Heads here pulling out of external income. Those that have tried it, and where there have been one or two problems and they have got really 'sent down' for it and the dogs have gone in, it has upset people and they simply turned round this year and said, "No more" ... Now, if you don't accept risk, then let's shut shop and say what we are is a business of pure education and we're not involving ourselves with external clients. If we are going to ... [accept risk], we have to have an element of risk strategy that goes with it, providing that the risk strategy ... doesn't expose the university to a financial problem. ... I think that that culture hasn't yet happened (HoD Applied Science post-1992)
It's quite interesting the way in which different people manage budgets... There's £8,500,000 so I'm only interested to the nearest 1% or so roughly, because as I was saying to someone this morning, 100k at any one time in the budget is noise ... you don't know precisely what the income levels are at any one time, and there's risk on how people default on their debts to you ...So you can't manage it more closer than that ... But I know some Deans do, they get worried: 'What's this £400 been spent on?', and of course eventually they find out that it was valid anyway, so why bother? (Dean, Engineering, post 1992)
I find (the attempt to become a top research institution) very exciting. I don't like the personal side of it, because in all change there are losers, and a lot of people will have lost in this, ... and I hate causing distress but ... one puts the wider picture forward in a way. (VC, pre-1992)
My line ... has always been to attempt to have a fairly light hand on the rein and to get people to do things and more or less to leave them to it. Sometimes they fall flat on their faces of course. (HoD Arts/Humanities, pre-1992)
I didn't actually tell them everything about what was going on [about staffing] because I thought it would be disruptive...,they didn't need to know on a day-to-day basis ... because it would have interfered with their work, and I didn't want to do that ... they might have thought ,well I might be better off in some other institution. So I decided not to tell them everything (HoD Arts/Humanities, pre-1992)
I'm not an entrepreneur, not much of a risk-taker, so I'm never going to be someone taking, making, the big change. More just trying to improve and approach things in different ways, those kind of changes, rather than the dramatic. (HoD, Health, pre-1992)
I've come up through the ranks you could say, started off as a trouper lecturer. Got a personal chair ... I didn't really consider myself as managerial potential, I considered myself as a researcher, I was very happy getting on running big programmes, supervising graduate students and postdocs. But I think once you reach the top, and I guess once you get your personal chair, you think, [and] I guess with it being a very, very, competitive university for survival of departments - research funds, FTE's - if the department's not run properly, then you're all in serious trouble. (HoD Science, pre-1992)
I started here as a Lecturer .. and I moved up to be a Senior Lecturer and ... became a Principal Lecturer with responsibility for a combined honours programme ... I became eventually Director of Undergraduate Studies ... I think the opportunity then came to do something I'd never done, which was to actually manage a group of staff - and I thought this was a good career move: the opportunity to do something different and a considerable increase in my salary (HoD Social Science, post-1992)
I came back to head a research group ... then as things went on I eventually became professor and head of the department ... As time progressed it fell to me to be elected to be Dean ... and I discovered that I did get some job satisfaction from the more managerial side of universities... By then, in the sort of mid-50's age-wise, I was beginning to think maybe I'd like to be a Vice-Chancellor of another university. And by that time I'd ceased being Dean and I was then appointed as a Pro Vice-Chancellor. ... In the meantime the creation of the Deputy Vice-Chancellorship (DVC)... offered an opportunity ... That's how I ended up where I am. (DVC pre-1992)
HoD: To get accurate feedback about how you're actually doing is very, very difficult ... If I start saying to the staff, "Well, do you actually agree with what I'm doing?" that shows them that I may have some doubt about it and ... that would down their confidence in my ability to run the School (HoD Social Science, post-1992)
I thought I might feel quite isolated in the department and I do ... It changes your relationship with everybody in quite difficult ways (HoD, Arts/Humanities, pre-1992)
Many of the senior professors who I worked with ... had great managerial skills and you know, plain commonsense: how you make things happen, don't get too bogged down in bureaucracy, where there's a will there's a way, you know, those kind of approaches. (PVC, pre-1992)
'activities, tasks, functions and understandings do not exist in isolation; they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning' (Lave and Wenger 1991 p 35).
Well I thought I was always very fortunate that I had an apprenticeship as [temporary] head of science, while the incumbent Head was off being Dean... if you felt a bit nervous about something you could always hide behind the fact 'Well I'm not really the head, he's just down the corridor' [laugh]. (DVC, post-1992)
2 The team consisted of the authors plus Mike Reed, Stephen Watson, Oliver Fulton and Sam Hillyard.
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