I recently met someone who had just moved to Canada from the UK, to take up a decanal position here. He mentioned that, since his move, the two things that had most shocked him were: 1) how little power he has in Canada, compared to the UK; and, 2) just how much bureaucracy there is here. He relayed this to me by explaining the difference in hiring procedures between the two countries, which I reproduce below, in tabular form:
* Indicates a step where a negative vote or decision can send the process back to an earlier stage.
As he was telling me this, I thought about how much of our university decision-making systems seem to have evolved to prevent things from being managed efficiently. This can be defended on grounds of co-management or collegial governance – values that many hold dear, and which have often served the system well. But there’s a cost to it. Multiply that table hundreds of times every year, and across every institution, and you get a sense of how big that cost is.
It also occurred to me: in Canada, I always hear professors arguing that they’re overburdened with committee work, and deans arguing that they have responsibility, but no power with which to make decisions. Moving to a more UK-like system would solve both problems. But, in the end, it’s not clear that professors’ dislike of committee meetings is sufficiently great enough to ever allow that to happen.