A comparative study of university administrative systems
Student administrative systems swing between being decentralised or centralised with a number of benefits being put forward for each scenario, including economy, consistency, customer service and control. This study makes a comparison of these systems in English universities, particularly looking at the factors which influence the centralisation or decentralisation of student administration in order to identify the factors involved, so that informed decisions can be made by university management. The research was undertaken in two main phases: firstly a questionnaire survey of university registrars (the macro study) was carried out in order to identify the current structures and systems in place for student administration; secondly case studies of four universities were undertaken. The latter mainly involved questionnaire surveys of academic and administrative staff at each institution, together with semi-structured interviews to chart the different student administrative systems and structures in place and obtain qualitative and quantitative data to assess them. From the results of the first survey, it was possible to assess the degree of the centralisation or decentralisation of the student administrative functions and cross-reference the data to examine whether certain factors were influencing the design of these structures. The results of this analysis are documented in Chapter 4, and it was noticeable that the majority of the respondents favoured the “midway” structure for student administration. Four universities were identified from the macro study to form the focus of more detailed case studies: one with a centralised student administration, one with a decentralised system, and two with hybrid systems. Key administrative functions were examined closely to determine the effectiveness, efficiency and motivational influences involved for each case study university. The research concludes that a blanket centralisation or decentralisation of student administration does not maximise the resources and gain the optimum efficiency. By being selective in which processes are centralised or decentralised, the university can gain in economy and also ensure a supportive infrastructure to enhance the student experience.