Today is one of those days that’s full of meetings. Two with students anxious about their projects, one information meeting about the reorganisation of the arts and humanities faculty, and a meeting with the dean and the faculty director about The Future Of The Department.

One of the most annoying things about the university “democracy” is the lack of clarity in the circulation of information and the vagueness of where decisions actually get made. Although now I’ve been doing this Head of Department thing for a couple of months I’m realising that a lot of the reason things appear to be messy and disorganised is that I don’t know the routines. It’s true that there’s no job description for a person in my position, and you’d think that that’s something a huge organisation like the university, with its 2000 or so employees and many many heads of departments would have thought of making, but no, I asked and there isn’t. On the other hand, it’s only now after two months that I can see the huge amount of work the secretary, the student counsellor and the head of our office do. We share this administrative staff with literature and linguistics, and previously I really didn’t understand what they did, apart from pay bills and book teaching rooms. Now we cooperate wonderfully, and thanks to them, largely, this head of department thing doesn’t seem as scary or time-consuming or unsurmountable as it appeared at the start.

And yet, even assuming that I simply don’t yet know how to see how everything works, it does seem that the university “democracy” we supposedly have is rather illusory. We elect our president, and our deans, but only about 10% of staff and students vote. No wonder: the candidates’ programs are all more or less alike, if they even bother to say what issues they actually care about. More worrying is the, oh, see, I don’t even have the words to describe it, because it’s fuzzy, not obvious, but it just seems that a lot happens in the corridors, between people who know each other, rather than in the formal meetings. That’s social networking for you. It’s a great way of keeping power in the group, in an unobtrusive way. But ya know, I reckon I can learn to play the network.

Hopefully in a few more months I’ll be able to see that this isn’t really the case. It’s just that I didn’t actually quite understand the system yet. (After all, I’ve only been an employee here since 1999, and I began studying here in 1990, with just 2-3 years elsewhere.)

10 thoughts on “head of department, day 89

  1. Jose Angel

    In my university, there was a generous provision for representatives of students in all university committees, but apart from the low voter turnout there was a dearth of volunteers for representation… so in my department there might be just one representative for the students, or none, instead of the twenty-five there should have been. No wonder, after a reform, student representation was cut down to a fraction. Sad…

  2. Mum

    89 days!! So is there a post coming up shortly where you’ll
    assess the first 100 days in office? I look forward to it.

  3. Jill

    100 days in office! What a great idea!

  4. Liz Lawley

    You *elect* your president and deans? I am *so* jealous.

  5. Jill

    Ah. Yes. Huge reforms in the 70s, I think, which still haven’t quite disappeared. Though this year there are two candidates for Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and that hasn’t happened in decades, the veterans say. Usually the previous dean, or a senior professor, basically decides who’ll be the next dean by making a phone call and saying that you know, it’s your turn. Then there’s an election with only one candidate.

    I guess the jobs just haven’t been seen as particularly attractive. There’s a lot of extra work and no tmuch compensation.

    There’s been a reform now where heads of departments will be hired, not elected as they are now. There’ll also not BE departments as small as mine. I think this new heads will have better compensation in terms of salaries, and they’ll also have more power to make changes. It’ll be interesting….

  6. torill

    But the headmasters are to remain elected, at the Universities. And we have the opportunity to og back to electing the leaders if this does not work. It is up to the institution. I suspect that at our college we will keep the elected deans for running the research and development part of the studies, and hire the people who plan and administrate the teaching. The elective system is a good way to ensure that most faculty at some point get administrative experience, as it tends to be taken in turns. Unless you are grossly incompetent, you will be asked to stand as a leader of the department for a while.

    The new hired department heads at the university in Bergen, I think is due to the increase in paper pushing due to the quality reform. This increase is staggering, particularly at the universities, as they tended to simplify this at the department level. At the moment, to ask a member of the faculty to take the job means to ask them to put most research on hold for X years. Or forget about having a private life.

  7. Andre S C

    Only one thing worse than accademic democracy, academic beurocracy. Co I teach for has about 3oo campuses, each with its own hyrarchy – which is mostly for admin purposes as everything is autocratically managed from a central management that is only commercially driven, and has a revolving door culture, everytime you phone someone they are in a different position, everytime you phone a ‘position’ you have to start all over explaining whatever it was you were busy dealing with with this person’s predesesor, so I supose its not surprising that the co’s job-descriptions are pretty generic, this is the job description for the post of H.O.D Info Mngmnt, but details are exactly the same for most accademic positions (company is function aligned, so essentially you have two companies co-existing, Admin and Academic, and neither knows what the other is going on about :- (, and the real power is in the coridors…

    Any way, for what its worth…

    Position: Head of Department ñ Information Management

    Purpose of Position
    The Head of Department is responsible for the academic leadership and management of a department(s). S/he bears overall responsibility for ensuring that the tasks listed below are carried out. Where appropriate, the actual performance of the tasks may be delegated by the Head of Departments to full time and / or part time academic staff within the department.

    Duties and Responsibilities
    The responsibilities of the Head of Department include, inter alia:

    q Participation in the monitoring, evaluation and development of academic programmes
    q Promotion of research activities
    q Liaison with academic colleagues and relevant people in commerce and industry to ensure ongoing development and relevant academic programmes
    q Direct participation in teaching (18 – 22 lectures per week).

    q Ensuring that appropriate staff are appointed for all courses taught within the department
    q Participation in the selection of all staff within the department and ensuring that employment contracts are prepared
    q Implementation of an appropriate orientation procedure for staff
    q Assessment and motivation of staff
    q Conflict Management

    q Participation in student registration process
    q Approval of credits and exemptions
    q Academic monitoring (including attendance) and maintenance of student records in consultation with the faculty administrative staff
    q Control of tests and examinations
    q Marking / moderation of tests and examination papers as requested by the Dean
    q Participation in Examination Board meetings where relevant.

    q Chairperson of regular departmental staff meetings
    q Liaison between department, faculty and management
    q Participation in updating of a departmental policies and procedures manual
    q Maintenance of a schedule of equipment within the department
    q Resource files
    q Monitoring cancellation of lectures
    q Monitoring and authorisation of printing requests
    q Staff and student communication
    q Staff and student grievance and discipline

    q Participation in Faculty meetings
    q Participation in management events, including representing the site when appropriate

    q Any other responsibilities as reasonably delegated by a member of senior management.

    q Annually distribute the Standard Operating Procedures manual (Teaching and Learning Policies) for the division (both full-time and part-time).
    q Take full responsibility for the Student Management System including new implementations, maintenance, etc. (pricing input, academic information, assessment strategies, learner requirements, etc.).
    q Take full responsibility for the Student Management System including new implementations, maintenance, etc. (pricing input, academic information, assessment strategies, learner requirements, etc.).
    q Provide policies and guidelines for the establishment and management of library facilities across Damelin.
    q Annually update and distribute a divisional academic calendar.
    q Annually distribute standardised lecturer course outlines, and lecturer support guides per module for each programme.
    q Annually distribute standardised student course outlines per module for each programme in accordance with the learning programmes or learning frameworks, and the national academic calendar.
    q Provide ongoing support relating to administrative issues to all sites of delivery.

    Qualifications and Experience
    The successful candidate must have a minimum Honours degree or equivalent qualification and experience in the relevant subject area.

    The Head of Department should be a dynamic and dedicated academic with a well-established knowledge of the relevant field(s) of study and an excellent record of teaching and management in a tertiary teaching environment.

  8. Jill

    Wow.A single person should do all that? No wonder I’m exhausted….

  9. AndrÈ-S-C

    :-), so much for research and publication, notice its not even mentioned :- (

  10. Jill

    Exactly… Ah well.

    My position does in theory still entail 50% research. It’s just not very easy to actually do the work I’m supposed to do as head of department and teach in the remaining 50% of a full position.

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