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University admin, career advice? (sorry for cross posting)

(8 Posts)
eastwest Tue 03-Nov-15 23:44:30

I posted this in 'Back to Work' but then realised there's a section for HE...
So I've been looking around for a new career, and to cut a long story short, am interested in going into university administration. I would be starting at the bottom but have relevant work experience so hopefully would be able to progress. I have looked at some websites such as AUA to get an idea of what's involved, but there's not much detail. Just wondering if anyone has worked in this field and knows
- what the career opportunities & prospects are like
- what the day to day work is like once you progress a bit (I know it is very varied, but...)
- how best to move up and on from admin assistant
- what sort of qualifications you'd need to really move forward (MBA? I have a first degree and MA)
- plus any other need-to-know

PeasePuddingCold Fri 06-Nov-15 10:24:11

You'll also get answers from posters working in universities in the Academics' Corner over in the work topic. My sense as an academic is that the bog standard admin jobs are little different from bog standard office administration jobs anywhere. Except you'll be supporting very driven and dedicated academic colleagues, and you'll often be expected to be driven and dedicated as well.

I work with some fabulous admin support colleagues who understand and are committed to the core activities of the university - teaching and research. If you're not prepared for that, look elsewhere, please!! We all work too hard to have someone who's not supportive of our core activities and values.

The conditions are usually pretty good, pension scheme good, pay about the same as other office jobs, although mostly, job security can be better, but NOT ALWAYS. But universities are very driven places, and do most amazing stuff on the smell of an oily rag ie scarce resource.

Universities are not the havens from neo-liberal crap most people think they are.

If you have a set of specialised skills, then you'll find progression into very interesting work - research project support, or internationalisation, or curriculum development. And so on.

But the top admins I work with are like most academics - they work over and above what they're paid to do.

I'm lucky - our Departmental administrator is fantastic. They understand what we do. They like working with the students and they are a central person in our team. Paid shit, though.

PippaFawcett Fri 06-Nov-15 10:29:48

I work in a university (not in admin) and the pay and conditions are better than the average for admin posts. It will depend on the university of course. We all get a free meal each day, regular paid-for social events and we work set hours.

You can definitely build a career out of admin, there are lots of opportunities to progress by switching departments/faculties. There are a couple of outstandingly organised admin people where I work and they are highly respected and could get a job anywhere within our university if they wished as word of mouth counts for a lot.

On the flip side, there are a few admin people who have refused to have further training and only do filing/enquiries/phonecalls and they haven't had a pay rise for years. But in my opinion, they don't particularly deserve one either as they are jobsworths who won't put themselves out for anyone.

eastwest Fri 06-Nov-15 15:58:44

Thanks guys, that's very useful. I am actually currently an hourly paid lecturer in a RG university (I have an MA from here, and they invited me back to teach a module once I had enough work experience - it is a creative subject) so I am certainly aware of the importance of teaching and research, and keen to support that in whatever department. I know I would be taking a huge drop in terms of per hour wage. However, the area I teach and practice is extremely niche - I think there are just two MA programmes in the entire UK - and also doesn't show up well in REF terms (hard to show impact, and all depends on the vagaries of your creative career). So I have come to the conclusion there is no future for me long-term on the teaching side (have been for interviews for f-t posts & been told I missed out to someone who could make a better REF showing). The things suggested - research project support, or internationalisation, or curriculum development - sound very interesting. I've recently set up and secured funding for a development scheme for disadvantaged people going into my area, so have developed some project management, etc. skills that way, and find that really interesting.
I would certainly intend to take training etc. and make a career of it - would prefer not to stay an admin assistant all my life!

eastwest Fri 06-Nov-15 16:02:37

Oh, I just saw you mentioned the Academics' corner - will have a look there, thanks.

smellylittleorange Fri 06-Nov-15 21:55:40

If you can get hold of it the AUA have published a guide to Departmental Administration the site is also useful. Research support sounds ideal for you .

TalkinPeas Sat 07-Nov-15 15:43:32

A friend is a faculty administrator and loves the job
apart from the politics
the budget cuts
the students
the academics
but even with that she does love it

her worst time of year is the two days before A level results come out - because she gets early sight and has to say NOTHING to anybody grin

eastwest Sat 07-Nov-15 18:20:33

Thanks, um, smelly (that sounds impolite smile) - will look into that.
Talkin Peas - ha, yes, I can imagine! smile

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