In the last two weeks, I have moved teams within the office in which I work. I was working on Programmes; now I have moved to Collaborative and International. The change is a challenge, in that I have not really had a great deal of involvement with Collaborative programmes before, and they do operate differently to the ‘home’ programmes.
I have always worked very closely with my academic colleagues, on whichever programme, or sets of programmes, that I have worked on. The change in team set me thinking about the qualities that are necessary for support staff within Universities.
There are some who will have you believe that the role of an administrator in HE is mainly data entry, with little responsibility and decision making. I have to say that this, in my experience, is not the case. In order to be an effective administrator, you need to have excellent attention to detail – it is likely to be you who picks up on little things that your academic colleagues may miss. You need to know your programme(s). I have learnt over the years that having intimate knowledge of the workings and nuances of the programmes you work on is vital. Each programme, or group of programmes, will have its own little differences – you may have a flexible part time programme. You may have a post graduate programme that operates strangely out of sync with under graduate programmes. Each student on the programmes will have their own set of circumstances that may effect them in assessments, and considerations will need to be made at assessment board time. It is often you, the administrator, who has some of this specialist knowledge. There are times when you will be the point of contact for a troubled student. I have managed to retain students on a programme in the past when they were on the verge of withdrawing, but was able to advise and suggest a suspension of studies as an alternative. This kind of ability is invaluable to a university and to a programme team (especially when numbers can make or break a programme!).
I have always felt that a programme needs a dedicated administrator – and the last two weeks have confirmed this for me. A collaborative programme is likely to have differences that a home programme does not. You are often working within more than one set of regulations – your institution, and the partner institution. These programmes can not be managed by multiple people. They need to have a single person who can truly get to grips with the nuances.
I’m hoping that support staff reading this blog post are nodding sagely at what I say. We are the foundation of the success of our institutions. If you are the type of person who does have attention to detail; who notices the little things; who works well to a structure that has deadlines, regulations and application, you will make an excellent HE administrator.