My academic colleagues tend not to believe me when I tell them that there are more non-academic staff in Universities in Australia than there are academic staff. Frank Larkins from the L.H.Martin institute has a new paper that nicely summarises the data and changes over time. It has a link to the underlying DEEWR tables. And it shows that there are more administrative staff (Full Time Equivalent) than academics (FTE) in Universites.
Now, you can fiddle around with the numbers and tables. For example, casuals are not included in the base DEEWR tables and they make up a significant part of the university workforce in some areas. Larkins adjusts for this in his figure 1. The breakdown has also not changed greatly over time and does not seem to be a ‘public sector’ issue. Using the DEEWR tables, Bond University looks similar to the others.
The numbers do, however, beg the question of ‘why’? There are a lot of administrative tasks at Universities. Dealing with timetabling, students services and so on is an administrative nightmare (I know – part of my former Dean’s role was to oversee some of this). Nor is it obvious that we are ‘out’ by international standards – so it is not clear that we can blame Australian government red tape. For example, the University of Manchester appears to have about 49% of its staff in administration but the University of Bradford has almost 66% (treating ‘manual’ and ‘technical’ as administrative). For the University of California system, (see table 10 here) and excluding the ‘Office of the President’, U.C. Berkeley is about 59% non-academic while UCLA is about 75% non-academic!
So I guess the lesson is simple. Universities, world-wide, are great big bureaucracies. And I guess that is why they should be worried about the potential for change through the internet, on-line courses and so on. Because any institution that can reduce the administrative burden will be able to undercut the current providers.