University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Universities swamped in paperwork and bureaucrats

Danish universities get more money than ever. But it's not going towards teaching and research. Study shows that administration costs have almost doubled

Central administration at Danish universities has a bigger overall budget than ever. And the increase in administration fees swallow up what corresponds to 1,290 full-time academic positions.

This is one of the conclusions of a study presented Friday at the ‘Follow the Money’ conference hosted by the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs (DM).

Professor Sue Wright of the Danish Pedagogical University at Aarhus University and Rebecca Boden of the University of Wales Institute Cardiff have tracked the funding from the Danish treasury to the Danish universities over the last seven years.

They concluded that financing of the country’s universities had risen about 40 per cent between 2003 and 2009.

Admin costs rocketed

Nationwide, the proportion of universities’ costs going to administration has gone up from 16.1 percent in 2003 to 18.5 per cent today. This, concludes the two authors, corresponds to a proportional increase of DKK 553 million.

»It means that if we had kept the administration at the same share of the budget as in 2003, Danish universities could have recruited 1,290 academics« says Rebecca Boden.

The trend applies to all Danish universities, but at some universities the increase in administrative expenses has been higher than in others, with the highest being Aarhus University and the Danish Technical University, which rose 277 percent.

Pretending there is less admin

The University of Copenhagen has seen an increase in administrative expenses of 46 per cent between 2003 and 2009.

»There is power in determining who is a VIP (Danish term for academic, ed.) or TAP (Danish term for administrative personnel and other staff, ed.), and there is a high degree of confidentiality in determining exactly who is what,« says Boden.

»Universities are of course interested in presenting administrative expenses as small as possible.«