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It took Oxford 40 years to catch up with Cambridge in appointing a woman vice-chancellor, but Louise Richardson — ex-St Andrews, Irish, Catholic, terrorism expert — is to take over from the chemist Andrew Hamilton. He is leaving early to head New York University for an eye-watering £950,000 a year. His successor will inherit a more modest but still whopping £442,000 a year. That’s what happens when a university is run like a biggish corporation — the head is paid like a chief executive. (A professor gets around £65,000 a year: once, Louise Richardson would have been on something similar.)

Chief of the problems Richardson has to get to grips with, once the ceremonial is done, is the extent to which the real business of the university — teaching and research — is being subordinated to its bureaucracy.

Remember the lesser-known bit of Parkinson’s Law — that bureaucracy expands in inverse proportion to its usefulness? The number of Navy bureaucrats rose after the first world war, Parkinson noted, just as the number of warships went down. That’s more or less how Oxford University is looking now — actually, how it’s looked for some time.

The university’s central administrative staff is now almost three times what it was 15 years ago...

How come our cash-strapped universities can afford so many administrators? » The Spectator

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