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Organisational expansion in higher education: the growth of universities' administrative staff and its impact on performance

Baltaru, Roxana Diana (2018) Organisational expansion in higher education: the growth of universities' administrative staff and its impact on performance. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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The current research investigates the professional and administrative expansion taking place in universities over the last twenty years, characterised by the emergence of new roles and functions in areas such as: planning, marketing, student services, student placement, quality control, and external relations. Understanding the forces underlying this change is essential in building a reliable picture of the current state and likely direction of the university as an institution. I engage with the two arguments conceptualizing administrative and professional growth in universities: functionalist (emphasising the role of structural pressures e.g. student numbers) and neo-institutionalist (drawing attention to the cultural forces that shape universities as formal organisations). The first chapter provides a cross-national assessment of the relative significance of functionalist and cultural (neo-institutionalist) explanations in accounting for variation in the levels of administrative and professional staff in 761 universities from 11 European countries. The second chapter provides a national level empirical illustration of how cultural forces such as the diffusion of formal organisation make UK universities’ more prone to expand their professional infrastructure in catering to demographic inclusion. The third chapter extends the national level inquiry with an investigation into whether UK universities’ engagement with professional staff enhances university performance, in line with functionalist expectations. The findings show that the impact of structural needs on the expansion of professional and administrative staff is overestimated, as well as the role that professional staff plays in universities’ performance. The growth in administrative and professional staff is by large a by-product of universities formalising themselves as organisations. In this sense, universities’ engagement with new layers of professional expertise is a purveyor of legitimacy for institutions articulating themselves as highly integrated, strategic, and goal-driven entities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: professional staff; higher education; United Kingdom; administrators; organisation;
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Roxana-Diana Baltaru
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 13:08
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 01:00

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