Those who walk the talk: the role of administrative professionals in transforming universities into strategic actors

Article English OPEN
Karlsson, Sara ; Ryttberg, Malin (2016)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy (issn: 2002-0317)
  • Subject: administration, professionalisation, higher education, strategy, management

The group of administrators working in the Swedish higher education sector is undergoing considerable change. National statistics show that the average educational level is increasing and that more staff are being recruited from the private sector. This article discusses the implications of such changes on life and work in academia. In particular, it points to a link between new administrative roles and new demands placed on universities to become more coherent, goal-oriented organisations – so-called strategic actors. The article builds on national statistics and an in-depth interview study of administrative professionals from the areas of internationalisation, business liaison and research funding support, at three technical universities in Sweden. The study indicates that administrative professionals can have considerable impact on the management of a university. Lacking formal decision-making power, their influence tends to be indirect. Nevertheless, they can fulfil important roles as guardians of a holistic perspective, reminding internal stakeholders of the organisational aims of the university. Their role requires a set of competences and experiences that includes academic background as well as an attitude of self-reflection, sensitivity and judgement. In conclusion, it is argued that administrative professionals can play a crucial part in transforming universities into strategic actors. Their function merits more attention as it touches upon important issues of power and strategic direction in contemporary higher education.(Published: 29 November 2016)Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 31537 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.31537
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