HN Gopher Feed (2017-08-23) - page 1 of 10
Universities are broke - let's cut the pointless admin and get back
48 points by ryan_j_naughtonhttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/21/universiti...
slackstation - 18 minutes ago
The pointless admin is from services given to the students.
Universities (that aren't household brand names like the Ivys)
compete on services and facilities. And because most students are
young and using other people's money (their parents or their future
selves) they will choose schools not because they have the best
deal educationally but, because they beautiful grounds, newer,
swankier dorms and all of the social clubs and facilities for those
like sports fields, etc.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.
celim307 - 10 minutes ago
Yup. College is conspicuous consumption in a lot of ways
Animats - 17 minutes ago
Stanford is building a new "campus" in Redwood City. 35 acres.
2,700 people on site. None are students. None are faculty. No
teaching or research will occur there. It's all administrators.
"School of Medicine administration; Stanford Libraries and
University Archives; the major administrative units of Business
Affairs; Land, Buildings and Real Estate; University Human
Resources; Residential & Dining Enterprises; and the Office of
Development", says Stanford's FAQ. ("Development" in university-
speak means fund-raising, not building construction.)Now that's
management bloat.Stanford has only 2,180 faculty members.
zaphos - 2 minutes ago
The article is about UK Universities. Stanford is not broke.
forkLding - 50 minutes ago
I have actually had an idea related to the sort of debt had to be
taken by American university students for their academics.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.
gmarx - 23 minutes ago
You assume the primary purpose of college/university is to teach.
No. In America anyway, it is mostly a credential. The prestige
and exclusiveness of your uni serves as a marker of intelligence
in a society in which it can be legally treacherous to give
potential employees IQ tests.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
asdfjklasdfjkl - 16 minutes ago
It's difficult to design an education system without the
following property, but nonetheless I find it an unfortunate
one: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.
Kpourdeilami - 19 minutes ago
One of the most underrated aspects of getting a degree from one
of the top universities is the prestige and network that comes
alongside the education. Depending on your field of study, those
"extras" can be more important than the education itself (i.e. in
finance)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
meri_dian - 3 minutes ago
I work in the administration for a top public US research
University. The increase in size of University administration and
bureaucracy is due to a number of factors. One is certainly
unnecessary employment and over-employment. Not only at high
levels, with VP's, Assistant VP's, Assistant Vice VP's,
Chancellors, Vice Chancellor's, Executive VP's, Directors of XYZ,
etc, but also at low levels where the work done by 3 could
realistically be done by 1.However it's also important to recognize
that not all of the runaway growth of University bureaucracy is
needless; 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.
Universitis 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?
reaperducer - 46 minutes ago
Whether it's a university or a government or any other bureaucracy,
the money eventually flows to the top. And the top tier of
employees have no incentive to remove their own
livelihoods.Thinning the waste at the top is a great idea, but
never gets done unless a bigger bureaucracy makes it happen.
Overtonwindow - 23 minutes ago
MY favorite are the exorbitant salaries paid to sports faculty,
even when the sports program is loses money.
muninn_ - 44 minutes ago
We can't cut the pointless admin for public schools because we need
to comply with government regulations. Not making a judgement call
here, but it's there.
dbcurtis - 31 minutes ago
Not sure why you are getting downvoted, perhaps the word
"pointless". But certainly there are administrators on the
public school payroll who's job is ensuring regulatory compliance
and collecting/filing the evidence of compliance, and that
function did not exist years ago.Now, whether or not that is
"pointless" is a debatable. The laws were passed in the first
place to cure some perceived ill. It's fair to have an ROI
discussion around that.
grzm - 27 minutes ago
If it is the word "pointless", I bet your parent used it as
that's the phrase that's used in the submission title.
rfdub - moments ago
I work in post secondary administration, so I think I have some
perspective here. Part of the problem, at least in the US & Canada
(Where I live) is that post secondary institutions are positioning
themselves less and less and places to get an education and more
and more as places to go for an "experience." Its no longer enough
to provide a quality education, universities now are selling
themselves on their facilities, their "student life" and all the
other intangibles that are secondary to actual education. This
leads to all the administrative bloat we're seeing as now that many
schools are functioning more like glorified 4 years spas they have
to have departments filled with staff to plan events, throw
parties, Snapchat sports games, provide "save spaces," etc.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.
mnm1 - 39 minutes ago
Yes. This is why I refuse to donate to my alma mater anymore.
Tuition has nearly tripled in in fourteen years while they are
still teaching the same number of students with roughly the same or
fewer full time faculty. There's something seriously wrong with
that and this is a huge symptom of it. Until they get their shit
together, they need less money coming in, not more. This is
supposed to be a nonprofit institution but clearly many people are
making big money in this business at the expense of students. The
federal loan programs certainly don't help either. Allowing student
loans to be discharged in bankruptcy would also lessen this money
feast for universities. Alas, no solution looks in sight so I do my
part in keeping money away from these money furnaces.
Finnucane - 13 minutes ago
Sadly, big donors, the ones who can give multimillion dollar
gifts, aren't really helping. They're prone to ego-driven gifts
of big monuments to themselves rather than funding scholarships
oh_sigh - 9 minutes ago
Allowing discharging of student debts in bankruptcy will lead to
lenders tightening who they loan to, leading to the poorest of
Americans not getting loans, and therefore no academic way to
claw out of heavy poverty.
TrainedMonkey - 19 minutes ago
I do agree that admin costs are too high. However I think most of
the tuition growth is due to decreases in state and federal
Finnucane - 13 minutes ago
That's true for state schools, where subsidies have been cut
Overtonwindow - 24 minutes ago
Extremely unpopular opinion: Let's cut both the extra admin, and
excess tenured professors. In fact, the entire tenure system should
be completely upended. At my alma mater there were a lot of
professors who didn't have enough students sign up for their
classes, or their field of study was phased out, or reduced.
Instead they sat around doing "research" and when they were forced
to teach, quite a few openly expressed disdain for teaching.
chriskanan - 11 minutes ago
As a tenure-track professor, obviously I'm biased, but tenure
doesn't mean you don't have to work. Professors still have to
pull their weight around the university and department. If nobody
takes their classes or they aren't bringing in research dollars,
that would be a problem that would be brought up in their
performance appraisals.The vast majority of tenured professors
make about 1/2 to 1/4 of what their value is in industry, and at
research institutions most work 60+ hours per week. On average, I
work far harder now than I did as a PhD student or when I was in
industry.An interesting alternative tenure are renewable five
year contracts, which are used at some teaching universities and
some prestigious research institutes. About a year before the
contract expires, a professor at these places has to document
their successes and convince the institute to renew their
contract. The idea is that a professor basically would be "going
up for tenure" every five years (but not receiving it, just
getting their contract renewed for 5 more years). If they start
getting lazy, their contracts don't need to be renewed. Going up
for tenure requires putting together about 100-200 pages of
documentation describing your research, pedagogy, service, etc.
oh_sigh - 7 minutes ago
What impacts can performance appraisals have on a tenured
professor? Is it possible to be fired or have your salary
severely cut simply from poor performance?
sir_kin - 8 minutes ago
The purpose of universities is twofold: to educate and to produce
new knowledge. You seem to have the mindset that most of a
professor's work should be teaching-related.People don't do PhDs
because they want to teach, they do it because they love their
field. And a professor's status (and funding!) depends on a
history of producing high quality (and quantity) research, not
their teaching prowess.
downrightmike - 2 hours ago
Wall of text warning.
dcre - 12 minutes ago
It's this crazy thing called an "article."
devrandomguy - 24 minutes ago
Good, that beats the heck out of a Youtube ELI5 or a slideshow of
tweet-sized snippets. A 30-second skim suggests that the writing
is of high enough quality to warrant a 10 minute read. Since it
is all on one page, I can ctrl-S and read it on the bus. Buses
are also good.