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Shared university services ‘snake oil’

TJ Ryan Foundation Board member, Linda Shields, and Philip Darbyshire have written an opinion piece featured in the latest edition of Campus Review, decrying the ‘managerialist juggernaut’ which has swept through modern universities. One of the less desirable legacies of this, the authors note, is the penchant for a ‘shared services’ model of operations.

‘In many countries, the managerialist juggernaut has hit the academy. We all understand that universities – at least public ones – are subject to the political caprices, whims and fancies of various education and employment ministers, and so budgets shrink while grandiose aspirations rise. Universities in many countries are embracing the shared services model (it has other names), and centralising administration. There can be no-one, even among shared services’ staunchest supporters, who denies that the impetus for such services is not financial, with saving money being a key rationale.

‘… Universities were once places of highest learning, whose raison d’être was the generation and promulgation of new knowledge. Few purse-holding politicians these days would cherish, let alone promote, such ideals. Rather, education ministers are more likely to demand that graduates are ‘job-ready’ and be trained as square or round pegs for particular jobs, rather than having developed the abilities to think and reason. To keep these ‘skills-and-employment institutions’ functioning and compliant, huge administration empires have grown up around them.’

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