Why Are We Here? The Changing Nature of Administrative Middle Management at an English HEI

Mienczakowski, Sandra Elaine (2013). Why Are We Here? The Changing Nature of Administrative Middle Management at an English HEI. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f11e


It is recognised that in recent years, radical changes have taken place within Higher Education. In addition to increased national government intervention, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to take account of national and international developments. Universities are complex organisations and the roles and experiences of those who work within them have changed overtime.

There is general agreement that the nature and scope of both academic and non-academic roles have changed and continue to change to meet the challenges facing universities in the 21st century. The literature reveals an agreement that these changes in university work lend themselves to new working practices; more team-working; and a blurring of the boundaries between academic and non-academic work. However, debate exists as to how far these changes have been achieved at the current time in English universities.

Increased accountability to a number of both external and internal stakeholders, and the need for more effective working practices to deal with increased numbers of students and complexity of roles, have implications for professional identity, organisational culture and work intensification.

The purpose of this small-scale investigation was to gain an understanding of administrators' experiences in relation to change within an English civic university and the implications for the professional practice of middle managers. Taking a Grounded Theory approach, the research was supported by the use of semistructured interviews with administrative and academic staff employed in the case study Higher Education Institution, together with analysis of documentary evidence and observation.

The findings from this research take us towards a theory of the nature of administrative middle management in an English HEI from the administrators' perspectives. The picture that emerges is of administrative middle managers who are part of a group of staff recognised as growing in professionalism.

Providing an insight into how, by speaking the 'right' language, 'knowing the rules' and understanding the environment within which they operate, administrative middle managers may become facilitators and influencers using negotiation and persuasion, their ability to effect strategic change within an organisational hierarchy typified by a professional bureaucracy where academics form the professional elite is also considered.

Recommendations for further work are outlined including a call for more research into the daily lives of middle managers and their experiences. In the light of findings from this research, recommendations for middle, junior and senior management are also outlined.

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