srhe

The Society for Research into Higher Education


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David Watson 1949-2015 : A tribute

By Paul Temple

In his first few days working at the Institute of Education in London, David Watson, who died on 8 February this year after a short illness, was drafted in to chair the exam board for an MA programme about which he knew nothing, and which involved some tricky procedural matters. Afterwards, I overheard the experienced course administrator for that programme say to our own course administrator, ‘Your David Watson – he’s awfully good, isn’t he?’ David would have relished the compliment, coming from one of the ordinary members of staff who keep universities running, and would almost certainly have valued it at least as much as the many tributes paid to him in the days immediately after his death by grand figures in the higher education world.

This was because David appreciated that leadership involved understanding the details of how organisations work, the nuts and bolts that hold them together Continue reading

Paul Temple


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If HR is the answer, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question

By Paul Temple

We all know that universities are, above all, people businesses. Every university depends on specialist staff to provide often complex services typically to thousands of students, some of them on a one-to-one basis. Their academic staff members are mostly expected to work at the intellectual frontiers of their disciplines, and are relied on to do so with minimal supervision. The people management issues involved here must therefore be a central concern for any university’s senior management: get this wrong, and the place is in real trouble. So the HR director has a task of at least comparable importance to her colleagues directing teaching, planning research, or exercising overall financial control. Universities are all about people, so HR has to be a key function – right?

Wrong. The analogy with finance, in particular, is tempting but false. Continue reading