If you are new to working in university administration, you will need to develop an understanding of what’s different about supporting academics and other administrative roles you may have held.
In business and government, administrative tasks tend to be quite straightforward, with all employees at a certain level eligible for specified types of help from admin and secretarial staff. Most staff work the similar hours in the same location. In higher education, however, academics work semi-independently. Modern campuses may have multiple sites, including overseas satellite campuses, online and distance education courses, and workplace-based teaching. And it’s certainly not a 9-5 job: you may find yourself supporting employees who teach only during evenings or off-campus, and others who work unusual schedules.
It is therefore important for admin staff to be flexible, and to develop communication and record-keeping systems that keep all the staff they support in the loop.
Academics often complain that administrators don’t work as part of module or programme teams, but in an “administration silo.” The best antidote to this problem is holding regular meetings—real or virtual—with the academic staff or team leaders you support. This will flag up emerging or ongoing issues before they become too big to handle easily.
Admin staff must also understand that academics often know little about and cannot even access the information systems that they work with, such as student records and admissions software. Explain the processes you use, and you will be able to communicate better. Sometimes it is also helpful to suggest increased access to these systems or training for academic system so that we don’t work at cross purposes.
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