You Come to Resemble Your Customers
By Arnold Kling
The growth of administrative work [in universities] has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.
One of my laws of business is that you come to resemble your customers. If your customers are slow to adopt new technology, then you will tend to be slow to adopt new technology. If you customers have low trust, then you will tend to have low trust, etc.
In higher education, government is often the customer. Grant-writing becomes a bureaucratic process because the entities offering the grants are bureaucratic. If government provided a smaller proportion of the funding in education, my guess is that this would make the structure of education more efficient and better at serving the people who are supposed to be learning.