However it's also important to recognize that not all of the runaway growth of University bureaucracy is due to poor management or redundant workers; expansion of IT infrastructure and increased regulatory requirements - especially for public institutions - demand more labor. These are the obvious culprits, but beyond these, because the modern University has become far more than just a place of higher education and has come to resemble a miniature city, it is expected to serve the diverse non-academic needs of tens of thousands of students, in addition to more traditional academic needs. Counseling and advisory services, recreational activities, food service, engagement and diversity programs, ubiquitous computing, etc. all add to the University's bottom line. Universities fear that if they were to stamp their feet and refuse to supply these amenities in the name of keeping down tuition, matriculation rates would decline as students would seek greener pastures elsewhere.
Add to this the fact that Universities receive no penalty from the market for continually increasing their prices. Because student loans are available to service ever increasing tuition costs, and students pretty much need to go to college to succeed in the 21st century, demand for college education is highly inelastic. What economic entity wouldn't raise its prices if it knew demand for its product wouldn't suffer?
In a traditional market, as one supplier increases price, competitors enter the market offering lower prices. This doesn't happen in the market for higher education because the value of a University is largely tied to its prestige, and prestige cannot be easily generated by competitors. We bemoan the high cost of University education then mock the University of Phoenix and similar offerings. Market dynamics are the guilty party here.
I think if we addressed some of these issues -- and therefore did bring the state of higher education closer to a market -- we'd see these dynamics change.
My favorite part of this whole debacle is seeing districts and schools using administrative bloat to their advantage when creatively reporting "Student:Staff" ratios.
SO much BS in the US.
I wish I had gone to JC my first two years. I was so thrilled with being out from under my parent's supervision that I goofed off too much in my first two years. JC is a little more forgiving, and in my experience, didn't have those huge lecture hall entry level course that spit out so many new students.
In state because it's much cheaper.
Also, unless you are already wealthy or have a family job waiting, get a degree based on what you like, but it must be fairly lucrative. Accounting, Finance, IT, CS, Engineering, etc. Stay away from art degrees and English majors. The subjects are fascinating, but it's awful hard to land a good job in those majors. Also, being a professor is very difficult to get into and getting tenure is even harder, so you probably want to skip that route.
Why? Because most folks dont really want to start their professional lives with massive debt right out of the gates.
The feedback loop for that is incredibly slow and incomplete. University reputations move on the order of decades, and only a handful of universities enter the public consciousness by way of reputation. Most students also don't have the freedom of choice to go to any university of their choosing (or everyone would go to the 'best' one). 'invisible hand' arguments just don't work on this one.
Back in my day, pre-internet, every high school guidance counselor had catalogs that compared schools, so did public libraries, and magazines like US News & World Report would annually publish rankings.
(See Cathy O'Neil's "Weapons of Math Destruction", where she blames US News rankings specifically for the bloat of universities and the overuse of adjuncts.)
My perception is that people, especially at that age, feel pressure to follow a track, and going to college is expected, and some majors are easy, and so they follow the path of least resistance.
My institution offers a seven-year combined BS/MD program. Graduate on time, get an MCAT score above the national mean and a decent GPA, and after 3 years you are automatically admitted to the institution's medical school. One requirement for admission into this program is an ACT score >= 32. Of this cohort, only 60 % made the cut.
60 % is low. This can't all be students that transferred out because the undergrad instruction is too awful or are otherwise incapable. I would put the blame squarely on the irrelevant curriculum and also would not hire anyone from that place because the level of instruction is just too low.
So you can only really report on how good value a course was 15 years ago - and in the intervening period, there's a good chance the academics, curriculum, price, industry and economy will have changed a great deal.
College is more expensive for the student because state funding for students has dropped precipitously. That means an increase in tuition, but that increase pretty linearly-maps to the decrease in state funding.
Now. many private schools have increased their nameplate cost. This is the signaling issue I mentioned before. When StateU tuition rises from $5k/yr to $10/yr over 5 years, the private universities use that increase to justify an increase in their nameplate cost from $25k/yr to $40k/yr, because they can. Of course, few people actually pay that. Increases in the actual amount people pay for college (other than at 4-year state funded schools, due to the changes in state funding) are much tamer than the headlines say: http://www.businessinsider.com/college-cost-changes-over-25-...
I think 'other than' isn't really the right phrase to use when excluding 3/4 of students.
People think that the prices are rising dramatically. He's pointing out that for 3/4s of people those price rises aren't price rises, it's just the person directly paying has changed from the state (i.e. paying via taxation) to the individual student paying. This looks like a price rise to the individual student, but not to the University receiving the payment.
Pretty sure I understood it correctly and that my point is germane. The increases in tuition at public schools are real increases in the actual amount that most people pay for college (which was my point, it doesn't work good to hand wave away the effect on the majority).
As you say, they aren't entirely from increases in spending on college, but again, it says actual amount people pay, which doesn't really imply total spending, it implies the cost to the student.
I find this so fascinating. In a normal market, demand is driven by differentiating factors, and I imagine paying for a reduced set of services could be wildly popular. I certainly never took advantage of most of the services I paid for in college—I was too busy with school.
Meanwhile, schools appear to be in the race for positioning schools as anything but a place to get a degree.... which is the entire role of college in society today.
I would quit my job and finish my degree tomorrow if there was a "no bullshit, we'll just get you your degree as fast as possible" option. But all I see are residency requirements, tuition that appears to be at least an order of magnitude more than what my professors cumulatively make from teaching me, etc etc. Very disheartening to someone who loves the culture of academia.
And don't forget, they STILL make you buy textbooks and allow the profs to pocket the profits.
Yes and no. Elite colleges have another purpose, which for many will be the primary purpose - it's how the next generation of the elite meet and get to know each other over the course of a few years, with plenty of leisure time in which to do so. Membership of the Bullingdon Club or Skull And Bones will obviously have a far, far greater effect on the outcome of the rest of your life than a generic bachelor's degree. To attract the elite therefore, you need good amenities, because that's what they're really there for. It's also why "Harvard dropout" carries very nearly as much prestige or social signal as "Harvard graduate" - getting in is the real goal, getting out with a degree is just the icing on the cake.
Similar is true of "party schools", or certain colleges where everyone just does activism full-time and no-one goes to lectures anyway.
By number of students, most higher ed institutions are community colleges, which are (for the most part) low on the BS and extra fun. For profits, and a growing number of 'bootcamp' type schools also fit in this area.
However, 4 year schools (starting off with good ol' Harvard) completely dominate the idea of what higher ed is like. Employers still revere 4 year degrees and a "big name" still has its advantages. Many students grow up thinking that's the only/right/best option for them - so between dozens of essentially equivalently good schools (i.e. The "Top 50", and arguable the top 100-200 too), students pick on factors other than learning.
A few months ago, 538 wrote a fun piece called "Shut Up About Harvard", which is worth a read.
Having worked in academia this doesn't surprise me in the slightest.
NB I know these ranking schemes are pretty dubious.
Have you checked out WGU? It's online only, acredited, fast-if-you-are-fast paced. My only criticism is that the BS in IT: Software Development does not have a strong math background. WGU also offers a master's in IT Security. A lot of the classes will double as certifications, too. I think you'll get a lot less bullshit here than normally possible.
In there you will find the oft-overlooked Law of Multiplication of Subordinates. The findings were based on the expansion of Admiralty in Great Britain after WWI.
TL;DR: administration kept expanding even though the number of ships was reduced to 1/3 the size.
This is much the same problem identified in the article, what you have said and what I have seen in corporate america as well. Too much administration, some of it required via legislation/regulatory matters.
You'd have a lot less debt and roughly equal job prospects when you "graduated".
This article is about universities in the UK, and they cannot arbitrarily decide to increase their tuition fees for home student.
> Because student loans are available to service ever increasing tuition costs
For many, a drop in tuition fees would never actually be noticed. For those that start to notice, it'll only make a difference when they're much older. This is because student loans in the UK are income contingent, and forgiven after a set period. Most people will not pay off their loans before they are forgiven.
I wonder if students can still easily do this.
Students would be better off going to a local community college for 2 years and then transferring to a state school to graduate. Tuition is lower, education is better.
The rapid growth of online degrees may bring competition to the market. Currently, many students choose in-state schools because it is a better value that moving somewhere else. Online allows schools anywhere to compete for those students and may start to drive prices down. Prestige will still be important for more elite universities but I suspect solid state schools may attract students by expanding online options.
A ramification of purchasing real estate, for amenities in current demand, is that we can get stuck with expensive real estate when enrollments are down and, correspondingly, the amenities in those buildings are less used.
The amenities come due to demand. But, they're costly. When amenity use is down, we're kind of stuck with those costs unless we can unload or re-purpose the real estate.
[EDIT: Added "costs" in sentence 3 paragraph 1.]
I do not agree with this. There are plenty of trades out there that can earn you a great salary without a degree. If you want a white collar job and are willing to put in the time and effort, there are plenty of ways to connect with employed nerds and show that you are capable of being an employed nerd as well via open source projects. NOBODY sane on github is going to ask for a degree before contributing to open source, and if you do it consistently would likely be as impressive as on-the-job experience.
A lot of people who have been to university would probably defend the mini-city model as integral to the experience. More pragmatic folks might argue otherwise.
I haven't been in the sector long enough to have a real handle on when or why this shift happened, but from my perspective its the primary driver of the increasing administrative bloat. Schools are competing more on the intangibles, and so they need to invest more into these areas, which means more staff and more overhead.
Personally I think the whole university model isn't long for this world though as there are plenty of ways competency can be signaled apart from a fancy foil-stamped piece of paper and eventually when the costs of university education don't provide a positive return over any reasonable time horizon students are going to start looking for alternatives en masse and the market will innovate to meet that demand.
The result is that students pay for headcount and donors pay for experiences. It isn't just administrative headcount, it is also teaching headcount. If you want a low price, you cannot have a $200,000 a year professor teaching 30 students and doing some research unless the research is funding their salary.
We need to lower the cost of colleges in the United States dramatically and that means tough choices, but it won't happen until we reach the point where student loan defaults are so prevalent that the federal gov can no longer subsidize them.
We have a crisis on our hands and our politicians are talking about lowering the cost of borrowing by 2%, and making colleges "free". They are not interested in driving down the real cost of an education.
Obviously there's other factors (effort, as you point out).
Though I think it's partly an artifact of the days when an undergrad degree would bring students to the leading edge of research, so there was simply no-one else qualified. There would have been a lot more synergy when researchers were explaining cutting edge ideas to students (it still happens a bit, but it's the exception rather than the rule).
Yes, that was my suspicion too -- historically, students were only going to those lectures where they were actually interested and which they were much closer to the level of the lecturer. In that case, the bottleneck isn't "ability to be a good explainer to novices" but "ability to answer arbitrary questions".
IOW, it looked more like grad school today, where the good researchers naturally are a better fit for teaching, and don't mind it as much.
They aren't. To an ever increasing extent, undergraduate teaching is done by adjunct staff, who are not involved in research, and who work on a temporary basis.
Professors with good research funding can often buy themselves out of all or part of their teaching load. Many choose to teach only the upper level or graduate courses, where immersion in research is in fact a useful qualification for teaching.
Disclosure: I was an adjunct for one semester, many years ago.
Meanwhile, tenure-track/tenured professors tend to focus primarily on teaching upper-level classes, which suits them infinitely better. The students they get are much more knowledgeable, which frees profs from worrying too much about background knowledge; by sheer virtue of selection bias, students that aren't interested have been filtered out; and the material is much closer to the work the profs themselves actually do.
For lower level subjects (i.e. most undergraduate courses) this is much less an issue, but the above still explains why we need researchers to also teach. Issues occur when you let a brilliant but eccentric mathematician teach calculus 101.
His research is in no way relevant to the course, and he might not be able to explain things on that base a level.
Sadly, sufficient mastery of the subject often comes at the cost of sufficient mastery of teaching, which becomes especially important for such difficult subjects. If only some of that money spent on more staff was spent on assistant teachers whose main skill was teaching and coaching other teachers, and providing paid hours for both of them to fix the curriculum together...
Anyway, I fully agree with your second paragraph. Another issue is that of researchers not really seeming to care, having an attitude of "you shouldn't be in University unless you really want to learn this, and I'm not going to try to motivate you or help you with that." There's some truth to that, but it also sometimes feels like it's used as a way to mask their own teaching incompetence.
I was asked to be an assistant teacher after graduating from my masters, and I completely freaked out about the responsibility of making sure I wouldn't fuck up my student's education (I cared more than most of my students did). I almost declined the job offer! I was basically told "yeah we know, that's part of why we want you."
Anyway, I spent a lot of time on-line trying to find advice on the dos and dont's of education. I can say that the best two lecture were Eric Mazur's Confessions of a Converted Lecturer and John Corrigan's Are We Listening To Our Children?. I think every teacher should watch these at least once.
I'm mostly thinking about the highest level math courses though.
There's a meme in research that teaching helps you do better at research. The story sounds plausible: to do a good job at teaching, you break the subject down into its component parts and tease out the essence, then package that up to deliver it. Perhaps through this process of repeatedly breaking your subject down to teach it, this process will eventually lead you to think about something differently, and then maybe you get an idea for your research. I've talked to people that say they have had this happen to them.
Partly because the idea that teaching is hard is heretical, though, professors really de-prioritize teaching when they are mentoring new professors. So not much in the way of classroom skill gets passed down from generation to generation, and it's up to the individual professor to re-discover how to teach when they start their career. Outcomes vary. Additionally, because of the idea that teaching is not hard, new professors (and professor trainees) are discouraged from spending too much time on teaching, so in my experience, when it's done well, it's done either by someone that takes more time than they ought (potentially at the expense of their career) or someone that is just so great at everything they do, that it works out okay.
This means there are just not that many people floating around who know how to teach and are amped up to do it. You see this when you try to staff "lecturer" positions at US universities, where that term means "someone who teaches but does no research." Those positions might even come with their own analogue to the tenure track! And you can interview dozens of people that can't really lecture, or teach.
If you go to grad school, you get indoctrinated very quickly to the idea that teaching is easy, you should do it with your eyes closed, but you should put in the minimal amount of work required before doing something that really matters, like publishing papers. I think it's hard to find people that can teach because those people wash out of grad school very early when they find out that their attempts at teaching well will not be rewarded.
This is not true if you look at the tiny liberal arts colleges, though. They actually care about teaching. However, if you go to grad school, you go to an R1 school (because tiny liberal arts colleges can't afford grad students) and R1 professors think that becoming a liberal arts college professor is a shade of failure, so they will strongly discourage you from going down that path.
Some of the facility spending, especially in athletics, is paid for by donors and athletics also has revenue from the major sport events, but there is huge spending and bloat on the academic side a well, funded by ever increasing tuition and fees that I just cannot see being sustainable.
All of that was pretty similar then, and this was when UC tuition was still very, very reasonable.
The main difference, maybe, was that at that time the experience was less controlled, and less managed. The dorm I lived in first year was run by fourth year undergrads and grad students, and their responsibility was basically to make sure that no one was opening vodka bottles in the common room, or setting off smoke detectors with bongs or puking in the elevator. They were compensated with free or heavily reduced room and board.
The experience was less controlled and less micro managed across all aspects of university life at that time, and even more so prior. My admittedly unsubstantiated viewpoint is that the proliferation of control mechanisms, and transition of traditionally subsidized experience management to formal salaried roles is a big contributor to the unnecessary increase in bureaucracy, and it has a negative long term effect on learning from both the academic and the 'experience' side of things.
It's also worth pointing out how colleges end up benefiting from having captive customers. It's usually more difficult for a 17-18 year old to rent a place off campus and commute, and many schools even have policies against that. And a social environment is encouraged in dorms and dining halls, so students who aren't buying stuff from the "company store" end up at a loss. Whether or not the school is good at managing housing and food is often immaterial.
If I had to actually guess, it probably started around the time they realized that the Millenial matriculation cohort was going to start "running down", resulting in universities having to either reduce their selectivity (which is death for a private uni) or somehow retain their selectivity by attracting more of a limited applicant pool. At the same time, there's a secular trend in cutting per-student funding for state universities.
The result is that state schools need to bring in more tuition money (forcing prices up on their end, reducing price competition against over-expensive private schools), while private schools need to retain selectivity (so they compete harder for students who can pay).
And in terms of non-educational successes, the school name alone often provides the value, and since it's virtually impossible get an exact value, schools compete on other factors.
Combined with the fact students are more and more willing to go further away from home to get a degree, you need to offer something more than education. Going to a good school (and doing the work) will be challenging regardless of where it is, and I think most people realize this at some level -- so you look for the place that will make you happy otherwise. Slogging through finals week anywhere is tough, but it's hell if you also hate the school you're at and wish you were somewhere else.
As far as the "university model" -- it's got problems, definitely. But the value of the top schools has always been the name. Consider that graduates of top schools are so overrepresented in the highest levels of both the public and private sector, it will be hard to break the cycle of top-down everyone buying into the idea of a 4 year degree. It will probably happen at some point, but it seems slow going.
The biggest schools (especially R1-level unis) fare much better in terms of providing funding and aid to students, so they aren't always as cost prohibitive as many for profit schools are (where the vast majority of student loan debt is tied up).
Because you can share course videos, but you can't share intangibles.
I struggle to understand why relatively high-level management or SIO needs to be paid to get involved in what another 'adult' does out side of lectures/labs and campus.
I've heard of people doing this but why would you ever have donated your money to someone you have already paid? I wouldn't donate to my pizza place, my doctor, or my barber. Why would a college be different?
Or, reverse this: if I go to a school and that school suddenly starts to suck, then I will be tainted with the school sucking.
Either way, it's a problem of credentialism.
There is a coordinated effort to temporarily exempt schools from antitrust rules so they can collectively coordinate a tuition drop, and stop the fake scholarship arms race.
If you can't get a scholarship and it's not a top 10 school $50k per year probably isn't worth paying.
That's not even close to true.
Most public schools don't have residency requirements. The ones that do normally have waivers that are easy to get.
I've also never heard of a school with a residency requirement for sophomores.
I said most public schools.
I don't really care about the cost of private schools just like I don't care about the cost of private boarding high schools.
Even the UC schools in California are close to that.
100k a year is just, wow.
Maybe there is a middle ground where student debt is not easily discharged, but can be in some cases (eg: graduated 10-20yrs ago, could never find a steady job).
Ideally we as a country should decide to make trade schools/college free (or at least give people $10k/yr towards tuition). This would not be a huge increase the in budget as we already spend ~$10k/yr (depends on state) to send kids to high school.
It also indexes with inflation so that there isn't a major stress if you graduate with a low paying job and work your way up to a higher salary.
This does mean its everyone's lowest priority to pay off, but you can't reasonably avoid paying it other than not making an income.
This just means the colleges will raise their price by $10k/year. They will charge what the market will bear and capture the subsidy for themselves.
Sure, tuition could be made cheaper, but i'd say the incentives got perverted because they don't need more students at all. They get their money from somewhere else.
The report doesn't say why those 4 specifically went bankrupt, but does talk about some issues affecting these people. Injury, large business losses. Guess we better ban anybody from dissolving student loans!
Now that's management bloat.
Stanford has only 2,180 faculty members.
This video overview of the project is dangerously close to parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKY0QdSElgc
* Managing Director, Development
* Vice President of Public Affairs
* Vice President Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer
* University Architect and Executive Director, Campus Planning & Design
* Director, Architecture
* Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs Finance and Facilities
* Associate Vice President of Sponsored Research
This isn't even the entire Stanford administration. There's also the academic administration (deans and such), the Stanford Management Company (the investment operation, established 1991), and Athletic Administration. Those remain on the main campus.
It was in the 1990s that the administrators really took over.
As an alum, this is embarrassing. But Stanford no longer has a real alumni association which could pressure the administration. The alumni association was acquired by Stanford's development department in 1998 so they could focus on their core mission of extracting money from alumni.
Those aren't telephone sanitizers. Their job is to keep thinking up spectacular things to propose, the better to lure insanely wealthy people into investing in Stanford. Stanford's run (or was) by a guy who as a matter of principle cannot think of ANY reason why any endowment or gift should ever go to any other school or thing that isn't Stanford, no matter how much money Stanford has or how little money anyone else has. He's committed to the proposition that the world's advanced through the consolidation of infinite resources (for Stanford).
As such, 'Office of Development' is a big deal for them, as is Land, Buildings and Real Estate: it's pretty much all about maximizing resources in order to be awarded more gifts to turn into more resources forever. They could not have ANY students or faculty and still function just as they are, if the hyper-wealthy people awarding them money were convinced their mission would be better without students. They could not have ANY students or faculty and still go on for years or decades just on the wealth they've currently got.
This university isn't 'broke'. They're part of the reason everybody else is broke. The idea is that they should have it all, ???, profit!
I'm not sure what metric 'profit' is expressed in. If it's 'money', this is working for Stanford.
They can easily use any potential savings by adjusting the way their scholarships taper off versus income.
"This workout routine is a waste of time and effort. See, look at Usain Bolt doing it."
The cost of a university education has far outpaced inflation. Harvard cost $2,600 in 1970.
Second, since you brought it up, can you explain how they determine the cost of tuition? If it’s unimportant maybe they can simply eliminate it for everyone. Are other universities the same?
Sticker price is an important value signal, which draws elites who, as alumnae, support the institution, so what elite universities do is have high sticker prices and then internal need-based financial aid packages that cover much of the costs for non-wealthy students. This also, incidentally, maximizes tuition revenue, as those who can pay from their own pocket or outside scholarships do pay. But maximizes revenue is incidental, because tuition is not the main source of revenue.
It may be hopelessly optimistic, but I think that eventually, tuition will and should be eliminated for everyone.. As it stands now, where students from wealthier families pay more, it is a good consolation prize.
Sort of 'progress through increasing the highest possible score'. In this light, spending excessively on administrators and absurd things is a form of virtue signalling meant to elicit further gifts through demonstrating they are already wealthy beyond all imagining.
That's not a joke: that's actually how it works, and there are many parallels, for instance in the stock market.
That said, some of the boat may have to do with government oversight for their research grants.
After said activity there is more administration and less of everything else.
(Not getting down to brass tacks is the great weakness in the article too, I think. The author seems to have an idea that these expendable positions can simply be identified by filtering out anyone who can't explain what they do in non-jargon terms, or asking the surplus employees to simply name themselves so they can be cut. Nothing in business is quite _that_ easy.)
If that is true then the whole idea behind management is flawed. (management, MBA, business administration and the like depend on the idea that managing one company is pretty much the same activity as managing another. If what you say is true, that you cannot just generically cut then such people should never be put in charge of companies or even departments, yet that is exactly what is happening in every large company).
(Just a frustrated ex-cisco employee whose manager had an MBA)
1) I know many people who think like that (in some cases because they have such a position. Manager without knowing what their reports actually do)
2) The hiring decisions made -regularly- prove that this is in fact the overriding opinion in our management.
You wouldn't tell a software engineer that their only job is to crank out code. That's actually a recipe for either 1) an absolute savant, or 2) a severely career-limited engineer. Engineers need to plan, estimate, document, test, troubleshoot, help recruit, and be technical leaders for all sorts of random things that come their way. We often deride that stuff as "admin work" that keeps us from our true calling – but let's be honest, that actually is part of the job description.
Similarly, it would be foolish to tell a professor that their only job is to sit in front of the classroom and teach. They should be expected to spend time improving their pedagogy, attracting students to their program, being a champion and mentor for students, spending some time in public outreach, and otherwise helping to drive their department's curriculum and agenda so it will flourish. At a research university like Stanford, they will be expected to spend time attracting research and research funding as well. Professors may bristle at having to do all that, and they can't do all of that alone – but again, it's part of the job description, and there's good reason why they're being tapped to do it! You really can't expect an admin to drive the research agenda of your department, for example.
So, where does your statement come from? How do you define "admin work"? Are you a teacher that feels like you're tapped to do stuff you shouldn't be doing? Are you really sure that's work that should be delegated?
BTW, Stanford has professional schools and a hospital, and is a research university, all of which are activities that don't behave like educating undergraduates.
I'm not really here to defend Stanford, I'm just pointing out that the criticisms in this sub-thread are all hand-wavy.
Reflexively assuming that all "administrators" are unnecessary bloat isn't much different than the mindset of a corporate raider who wants massive layoffs for increased profitability. It can be a myopic and short-sighted vision of creating actual value.
Also, the School of Medicine, which is arguably the best research medical school in the world and a leader in genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, neuroscience and neurobiology is at ground zero for the genomics revolution and should be more focused on growth, not being pennywise and pound foolish.
One of the biggest problems facing the biological sciences (and scientific research in general) is an exponential rise in the amount of data being generated, but an inability to catalogue and store the information, much less understand it. Modern librarians are inter-disciplinary problem solvers, often embedded in with faculty and researchers, responsible for indexing and archiving a rapidly increasing amount of information.
Plus, books books have thus far proven to be a more durable storage medium than all digital options in current usage. Without them, a solar flare or nuclear war could cause the modern equivalent of the burning of the Library of Alexandria
Libraries at universities have always offered more than just buildings full of books. My point is that there is a lot more to managing a serious library than just cataloging books. Trained librarians especially do a lot to directly contribute to research by connecting researchers with the right sources of information.
Hilariously, the LOCKSS project is also at the RWC location.
(Amount I'm paid per class / (students in class * cost per credit * credits for class) )
And found I'm paid about 10% of what the students pay for the experience of taking my class. I can't help wonder what happens to the rest of that money.
That probably doesn't make you feel great, but as a percentage of costs, faculty salaries are still the biggest expense at all schools I know of.
Staff for non-academic activities outside of the VP chain and coaches are also generally much lower than faculty salaries - Student life, activities, diversity, etc are closer to what you make.
It's a market problem with misaligned incentives and payment structures that has slowly grown worse over the past 40 years. No one actually says no because competition favors those that fatten themselves up with attractive but functionally useless things.
It's more like peacock feathers than malice or greed by administrators.
You could call it greed, or simple self-interest: if the administrators have correctly perceived that the insanely wealthy will only make gifts to institutions plated in gold with peacock feathers, then their personal feelings about gold and peacock feathers are irrelevant: they can seduce the wealthy, or not, and they can win the gifts, or not.
Definitely worth study, and definitely an interesting study in perverse incentives. After a point, nothing is valued BUT gold and peacock feathers because they're so inextricably a part of doing business. And it's certainly not aimed at the students. It's aimed at the impossibly wealthy, who wish their gifts to be associated with institutions that are absurdly swanky for the students. What the students want doesn't have anything to do with it, it's purely for donors.
> Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:
> First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
> Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
> The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
I asked if, in light of the increasing administration headcount, they thought appointing a Director of Sustainability was financially sustainable.
They clearly didn't get the message; while that particular Director has moved on to other things, there is now an Office of Sustainability with about a dozen people.
This is the difference between group A (admins) and group B (engineers, teachers, etc) in Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy . The former is often presented as a clever talented group of smart people who savvily work the system in TV shows like House of Cards but I question the utility it really offers the world when the ROI is so often questionable.
I'm curious how much of this modern dysfunction in modern governments (not just in the US) is due to the fact politicians are now almost entirely career politicians who spend their formative years in this insular world. The majority coming from the same private schools and 90% of them with law degrees. Rather than in the past, such as the founding fathers, who were businessmen, writers, and intellectuals first embedded in the real world who then went into public service.
The same analogy applies to Universities with administrators being raised within the system rather than the teaching staff intimately familiar with the front-line realities of the organization.
Thinning the waste at the top is a great idea, but never gets done unless a bigger bureaucracy makes it happen.
Athletics is an "auxilliary enterprise" at most educational institutions. It's self-funding, thanks to alumni donations and a few high-revenue sports (basketball and football for most, maybe hockey in some areas) that fund scholarships in all the non-revenue sports like rowing, golf, track and field, etc.
People like to gripe when the football coach makes more than the university president, but the football program funds that, scholarships for the players, and much more.
That assumption seems to be in doubt.
What used to be a core tenant of thought, is now a dollar figure. If you live in the state, you get a discount. End of story, obligations fulfilled, full stop.
But it's not a commitment or a central belief. No university will open its facilities to community members. No stage will be available for public performances, no instruments or machines will be made available for inquiring minds, no local organizations will spend more than a few hours on campus for a field trip.
Providing those things would cost money, sure enough. But they used to be part of a university's mission. Some of the older ones still enshrine the ideal in their mottos. That should mean something. It doesn't.
I mean that no university I've dealt with in any capacity, (which, okay, is only about a half-dozen,) has shown even the slightest interest in educating their local communities. That 'commitment' begins and ends with a discount given to a handful of people.
I've been hearing variations of "universities have too much administration" for at least a decade. I still haven't heard any solutions that aren't ridiculously expensive or already being implemented (and failing). Except, of course, for the solutions like "make it impossible for most of the people who currently attend college to go to college" which are approximately as politically viable as making French fries illegal and which furthermore do not really seem to have any mechanism to fix administrative costs other than "market voodoo".
One thing that tends to come up repeatedly when these discussions do reach a modicum of depth is the persistent gaming of the university rankings system. Universities game the ranking system by e.g. encouraging students to apply who are not likely to get in so that they will appear to be more exclusive. It would be nice to improve university rankings so they can't be so easily gamed, but will this actually make a significant difference? I'm not convinced yet that rankings actually have that large of an influence on university policy, in the first place.
The need for universities to police student behavior is another unfortunate situation. It's my understanding that federal cost-cutting is basically behind the moves on the government's part to implement policy by way of schools' enforcement of student misconduct. An honest politician should be able to fix this by allocating money for the government to do what it should have been doing in the first place, but increasing spending is very hard these days...
As several previous commenters have noted, we have a some what dysfunctional market, where most universities charge the same fees. For students you're still picking based on courses and reputation. You can't really pick a cheaper 'no-frills' university. This marketisation has leeched into the central university services, where we're turning everything into a product to sell. Not much of a market when academics have to use us. We are very cheap, it's not like we've got to make money. Obviously if you got rid of that, you'd be able to remove some staff. You'd still need quite a few to meet the legislative demands which are required of universities these days.
There are definitely some truths in the article. Not everyone needs to go to university. Certainly there are some students who are getting massive amounts of debt for very little gain. Universities do chase various league tables and other such measures (some imposed centrally) which does require lots of data gathering. Large amounts of data require staff to deal with that data. Students do really like shiny new buildings, so universities go on building sprees. Again a poor NSS (national student survey) can potentially reduce students and thus income. But to be fair, you'd want things to be nice when you're paying £9k per year for your fees alone.
REF and TEF aren't well liked by academics, so I'm quite sure a lot of them would be happy if they were dropped. It's unsurprising that the article is penned by an academic and one of his main suggestions is the dropping of REF.
The USS pension scheme deficit is probably misleading. If you want some detailed reading around that, then Mike Otsuka's articles are good - https://medium.com/@mikeotsuka
> In addition to the Creative Arts Building which opened in 2008, a new £17 million Business School opened in 2010, followed by the £3 million Buckley Innovation Centre in 2012, the £22.5 million Student Central building in 2014, and the £27.5 million Oastler Building for Law and the School of Music, Humanities and Media, in 2017. £5.5 million invested in University Campus Barnsley.
> The University now attracts students from more than 130 countries. With an annual turnover of approximately £150m each year, it estimates it is worth £300m annually to the local economy.
And yet there is rabble rousing concerning the Vice Chancellor's £337,000 salary
Why not use a mixture of blended learning and Coursera, where students pay not just professors but also industry folk for cutting-edge knowledge but also open up a marketplace for Youtube tutorial people to do physical workshops in their cities that can be charged and move onto a sort of Airbnb for education and workshops? I feel a lot of straight-up learning can be gained and the 3% charged per workshop will go towards scholarships. For people who think you would be paying high prices per lecture/workshop in this model, a university student has already been paying about $50 or more per lecture.
Instead of basically physical/manual admin systems in individual centralized universities, you have decentralized software system managing schedules and booking workshops/lectures.
Just an opinion and thought I've been having, any feedback welcome.
I will agree that for a significant minority of students the learning and learning to teach oneself are important. I doubt the top universities do a better job of this. From that perspective I think the main advantage of the sorting is that it is easier to teach if your students fall into a narrow band of ability
You do better at university when you already know the material, not when you use the university to learn the material. Your well-being (tied directly to gpa) depends on you not making mistakes during your coursework.
I don't know about you, but mistakes are how I learn.
I had a few classes where the professor provided both a list of recommended problems in the text, as well as an answer key. The grading was solely off of tests. Circumvents the cheating problem and tries to avoid punishing you for making mistakes while learning.
I think a decentralized system prioritizes the professor over the administration. In fact if universities aren't meant to be areas of teaching then why have them? My approach is more cutting out that middleman which is the university.
Moreover, prestige of unis are gradually fading away, although rare, I can sort of see a future where university credentials dont matter.
Excuse my bad grammar, I write very fast and in between my work so I dont really proofread.
Perhaps the purely academic aspect of universities can be replicated using YouTube tutorials but
unfortunately, a self-thought person won't have the same employment opportunities as someone
who holds a degree in the same field from a top university.
Technical people starting on their career path can overcome some of this by contributing to open source projects for example and the on-line networks they make.
I have had several job inquiries relating to open source work I contributed so it does work.
To put things in perspective financially, we appear to be sustaining ourselves on $40/mo memberships, with materials sold at cost for members. Projects for the outside world are expected to bring revenue in to the group, with a suggested minimum price of 2x material cost, unless they are for a charity or a primary/secondary school.
EdX is a quality platform, though, and MOOCs in general could fill that role.
The second half of the article is prescriptive but short on details. What does it mean to require "people to fully carry out their own fanciful ideas"? Does it mean that someone who decides the trash should be collected every other day rather than every day, should actually collect the trash?
Like many people, I'm attracted by headlines which align with my own biases. But my level of bias here is unchanged after reading the article!
Right now an employer has to consider a degree from Oxford Brookes in a completely different light to one from Oxford University. If they knew the students were graded in exactly the same way then it could really shake the system up.
Given how regularly things are messed up by the boards on simple GSCE level questions covering far fewer subjects, I'd not like to have that applied across everyone.
There might be some drag on creating new courses but there could be huge savings as well.
One thing I'm sure is the academic community wouldn't like it, it would need to be forced on them.