It is commonplace for commentators of all kinds to disparage administration and administrators – “They spend 50% of their income of administration!” scream the critics. But administration is important and if done well it can be a huge asset to any company or organisation.
Take university exams. It is coming up to repeat exam time in DCU and it is time to check the exam papers. In DCU, this means going across campus to the Registry to a small office where all of the papers – and it can be hundreds – are stored. There we get to make a final check on our papers before they are sealed away to be opened on exam day.
This room is ‘manned’ by a small number of administrative staff (exclusively female in my experience) who coordinate the safe passage of all papers from the Registry to the exam halls. For a two-week period, they manage a bewildering array of examinations located in rooms all over campus. Some exams will be located in three different rooms – the main room, a room for students with various special needs and, more rarely, a room for people who require a computer. There must be sufficient copies of the paper for each exam and supplementary material like mathematics tables must be provided where appropriate. When the exams are completed, the safe return of the scripts must be coordinated before collection by the relevant academics. This goes on twice a day for two weeks.
The really admirable thing about all of this is that screw-ups are incredibly rare and when they do occur, it is often the academic’s fault rather than the fault of the administrators.
Of course, all of this happens before we even start marking the scripts. Processing of the final marks is another huge job that is invariably done well by the administrators.
There are certain roles in life that seem to be destined to be undervalued. Administration is one of those roles and in academia we need to recognise the contribution of excellent administration a bit more often.