Higher Education consumes itself

The debates about TV debates with political party leaders (see any media outlet for coverage) got me thinking about some of the industry-within-an-industry, navel-gazing, procedural intricacies encountered in the higher education sector. Caveat: the examples below are either anecdotal or the result of personal experience rather than something formal, documented, evidenced!

  • Meetings about meetings

Anyone holding down a job that involves organising or attending committee meetings will be familiar with the meetings about meetings phenomenon. Dilbert had a view on it. Yes, a chat about what to include on the agenda is usually necessary but when time is spent meeting to discuss the finer points of what might happen in the meeting, to prepare the rationale behind a paper and consulting with anyone who may be affected, it is turning it into a cottage industry.

  • Feedback about feedback

Not unique to HE, there is a strand of meta-feedback that involves evaluating the effectiveness of feedback processes by seeking some feedback with the aim, presumably, of feedback leading to better feedback.

  • Signing when ready to sign

Whoa there! Universities are arguably becoming more cautious in entering into partnership agreements with other institutions or organisations. This can lead to the belt-and-braces approach whereby a document needs to be signed by the key people to indicate that an agreement or contract is ready to be signed.

  • Vote on holding a vote

Another one about meetings. If a consensus cannot be reached in formally constituted boards there are apparently times when it may be necessary to conduct a ballot of some kind on whether to hold a formal vote.

  • FOIs about FOIs

Prominent HE tweeters have commented on increases in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests leading to, surely the apex of human achievement, an FOI request about numbers of FOI requests.

  • Policy policy

As it says on the tin, a policy about how to write policies, a policy policy in other words.

  • A paper paper

Can you guess what this one’s about? When you’ve finished with the branding guidelines the paper on how to write a paper is next on your reading list.


Feel free to comment with other examples.

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