This latest episode of University Registrars Talking About Stuff provides an extremely welcome return for Newcastle University's legendary Registrar Dr John Hogan. Back in Episode 9
John and I talked, among other things, about stuff such as the impact of cuts in the 80s, the experience of working at the University of Warwick, life under lockdown and financial challenges ahead for the sector.
This time John once again demonstrates his passion for effective university management across a wide range of areas and recalls some recent experiences as well as a few issues from the past.
We explore the very different start to this term, noting that there are many fewer student Covid cases but many challenges remain although vaccination rates are impressively high.
The issue of collaboration versus competition in the sector prompts much debate as does the nature of university marketing operations and John's particular irritation at our spend on online advertising.
We look too at the growth over time in professional staff numbers and so-called 'administrative bloat' noting that much of this is in response to external regulatory demands from which universities often aim to insulate academics and students.
The culture of administration is an area of great interest for John and in particular his concern that we don't need to be brilliant with some activities, just legally compliant, in order to minimise the additional burden on the university. You will be pleased to note he has a number of slightly controversial observations on this issue too.
Finally, we look back at a major change project at Newcastle some years ago to which John contributed, the move of professional services from a warren of terraced houses to a shiny new building. This new structure was much more focused on providing a better service for students and a better working environment for staff as well as reducing the number of doors between the Registrar and the HR director from 23 to a slightly more sensible level.
John lauds the nature and role of universities as amazing transformational places where he has worked throughout his career. Sadly for all of us though he has recently announced his retirement in 2022. The sector will be much less interesting without his presence.