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Issue 479, 18 March 2002

Evolution of academic and administrative structures

The Senate is invited to comment on a possible evolutionary development of academic and administrative structures which has been mooted by the Vice-Chancellor's Strategy Group and discussed recently by the Academic Development Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee. In a nutshell, the proposal is that, so as both to free up academic time (by significantly reducing the administrative load) and to support inter-disciplinary activity, the University should move towards having fewer but larger units – say nine 'colleges' – for resource management. Both the Academic Development Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee have agreed that this idea is worth exploring further, and further work is therefore to be carried out to put some flesh on the bones – specifically, to sketch out how the model might be effected in practice and how the benefits would be secured.

Background

1. The proposal to effect a further evolutionary development of academic and administrative structures arose in a Strategy Group discussion about post-RAE needs, when a number of factors were identified which together were thought to point towards some development of the organisational structure. These included

  • structural issues brought into relief by the RAE outcome;

  • the problem of supporting inter-disciplinary activity;

  • representations made through the resource centre model review for fewer, larger units

and it is interesting to note restructuring being initiated at other (peer) institutions.

Objectives

2. The Strategy Group was clear that any development of the organisational structure would have to be academically-driven, and four specific objectives were mooted in that context:

  • to strengthen academic structures in the light of the RAE outcome

  • to build on the new structures that are already emerging in some areas

  • to free up academic time by significantly reducing the administrative load at the academic front line

  • to support inter-disciplinary activity.

3. These objectives would seem to point towards larger units, which could provide

  • critical mass while supporting a wide range of disciplines

  • more efficient and effective administration through consolidation of many administrative activities (including, in particular elements of HR, finance, purchasing, student administration and risk management) at the level of larger units, thus reducing duplication

  • better co-ordination of IT provision and improved IT security

  • improved career and staff development for support staff in academic areas

  • more efficient lines of communication.

The proposals

4. Against this background, the proposal currently being mooted is that Leeds should move towards a structure in which resources are allocated to nine 'colleges' on the following basis:

  • Each would be headed by a dean, who, working with a management team and in a collegial structure, would be responsible for strategic leadership and resource management, and who would have consolidated administrative support. (The pattern of support would vary from college to college, but might include, for example, a General Manager, financial and HR managers and so on.) The dean would be appointed through a University appointing committee.

  • Each would have a structure appropriate to its own circumstances. In some cases this structure might be unitary, in others federal.

  • In the latter connection, the resource allocation model could still be run at the level of existing academic units for in-college management purposes.

  • The nine college deans would all be members of ADC (replacing the existing eight HoRCs and eight deans).

  • Pro-vice-chancellors would have a link responsibility for one or two colleges. (Though the precise disposition of pro-vice-cancellarial portfolios – and the number of pro-vice-chancellors - would be subject to review in the normal way, the idea is that pro-vice-chancellors would retain functional portfolios (research etc) as now.)

  • The existing deanships – for research and for learning and teaching – would, in effect, be changed into other senior posts at college level.

  • Each college would have its own learning and teaching committee (with, for quality control purposes, members drawn from other colleges).

5. Over 90 per cent of the existing interdisciplinary research centres fit neatly within one college or another.

Possible colleges

6. Although this is subject to further discussion, the nine colleges envisaged are as follows:

  • Arts and Cultural Industries (covering Communication Studies, Design, Fine Art, Music, and Performance & Cultural Industries)

  • Humanities and Modern Languages (covering English, History, Humanities (Classics, Philosophy, Theology), and Modern Languages)

  • BLESS (covering LUBS, Continuing Education, Education, and Social Sciences & Law)

  • Biological Sciences (including Sports Sciences and perhaps Food Science)

  • Earth and Environment (covering Earth Sciences, Environment, Geography, and Transport Studies)

  • Mathematics and Physical Sciences (covering Mathematics, Chemistry, Colour Chemistry, and Physics & Astronomy)

  • Engineering (covering Civil Engineering, Computing, Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and SPEME)

  • Medicine and Dentistry (covering Medicine, Dentistry and perhaps Psychology)

  • Health (covering Healthcare Studies and the Nuffield Institute).

7. Each of these nine colleges would have critical mass for a college-level management and administration system which should obviate the need for much administrative activity at the level of individual academic units (and note that at least two of the 'colleges' listed above already have or are moving towards college-level administration). That critical mass is illustrated by the following table which shows the forecast total turnover by college for the current financial year

million

Arts and Cultural Industries 14.4
Humanities and Modern Languages 20.2
BLESS 30.2
Biological Sciences 36.2
Earth and Environment 16.5
Maths and Physical Sciences 21.3
Engineering 32.1
Medicine and Dentistry 50.2
Health 16.4

 

8. Although the proposed restructuring would be largely evolutionary, there are some possible shifts from a current faculty to a 'different' college – specifically in the case of Food Science, Psychology and Design. There would in any event still be a need for some inter-college interaction (for example, between Design and Engineering Design); and it should be noted that the proposed structure offers scope for further – and perhaps more radical – academic development when taken together with the possible formation of research institutes and the exploitation of opportunities for horizontal interaction (for example, between Communication Studies, Design and Fine Art).

Further actions

9. Both the Academic Development Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee have agreed that the possibility of some evolutionary development of academic and administrative structures along the lines indicated out above was worth exploring further. Further work is therefore to be undertaken to sketch out how the model might be effected in practice, and how the benefits identified above would be secured. The issues to be addressed include the following:

  • clarifying the division of authority and responsibilities between the University centrally and the colleges, mapping out a clear remit for each of the two levels

  • sketching out typical governance, management and administrative structures for the colleges (including explicit provision for staff participation in collegiate decision-making processes)

  • specifying which administrative functions will be decentralised from the centre to colleges and which moved from existing schools and departments to the college level

  • identifying possible consequential movement of resources

  • exploring the notion of creating a unitary University administration, spanning both the centre and colleges

  • demonstrating that restructuring along the lines envisaged will reduce the administrative load on academic units and academic staff, that it will allow leaders of academic units within colleges to concentrate on their academic roles and that it will not simply create an additional tier of bureaucracy.

10. Note that, because it is envisaged that different structures would be appropriate for different colleges, a number of different models will presumably have to be sketched out.

11. It is worth emphasising that the idea is to complete current work on existing resource centre deficits before a move towards a college-based structure.

Conclusion

12. The Senate is invited to comment on the general thrust of the restructuring mooted herein, and to identify points to be addressed as possible models for moving forward are fleshed out.

7 March 2002


 
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