We recently revealed the results of one of our survey questions, “What Surprised You When You First Started Working in Higher Education” After the most common answer, “the politics,” next on the list was the slow pace of accomplishing change in higher education.
This sentiment was mentioned by respondents across the board: those new to higher ed, veterans, and by people in different positions. Some responses included:
“It is collaborative to a fault, leading often to paralysis by analysis.”
“Even when new ways/ideas are proposed for cost reductions, change is painfully slow, if at all.”
“How everything is negotiated and has to be discussed before a decision is made.”
Here are some adjectives used to describe the unhurried atmosphere:
The relatively slow rate of change within higher education may not be surprising to most within higher education. It seems that the culture has always been this way. However, how has the more competitive environment influenced this culture, if at all?
On the one hand, some say the rise in administrative positions in response to increased competition may add to the bureaucracy. This Wall Street Journal article cites US Department of Education data showing that, “the number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011.”
On the other hand, competition has led to more dialogue about finding efficiencies, cutting through bureaucracy, encouraging innovation, and decreasing costs.
Given these trends, what is the net impact on the pace and culture?