Soon every faculty member will have a personal senior manager: Is this a good way to spend money?

by Richard Evans

(A PDF version of this article is available.)

In a letter to the UC Davis community, Chancellor Katehi and Provost Lavernia declared that we should work collectively “to address today’s major budget cuts, which come as a consequence of the state’s decade-long disinvestment in higher education.” I think there is a more immediate target for constructive change that would balance the UC budget.

It’s true that UC’s share of the state’s general fund has been declining (from 7.5 percent in 1967-68 to as low as 3 percent in recent years, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission[1]), but that has been a steady trend. The more immediate reason for the current enormous increases in student fees, and for the sudden need for employee furloughs, is the startling recent growth of UC’s senior management. Data available from the UC Office of the President shows that there were 2.5 faculty members for each senior manager in the UC system in 1993. Now there are as many senior managers as faculty.[2] Just think: Each professor could have his or her personal senior manager.


In the decade beginning in 1997, while faculty increased by 24 percent and student enrollment increased 39 percent, senior management grew by 118 percent. This past year, with the budget crisis in full swing, senior management has grown at twice the rate of faculty. That comes at a high price, because many managers are very well compensated for their work. A report on administrative growth by the UCLA Faculty Association[3] estimated that UC would have $800 million more each year if senior management had grown at the same rate as the rest of the university since 1997, instead of four times faster.

What could we do with $800 million? That is the total amount of the state funding cuts for 2008-09 and 2009-10, and four times the savings of the employee furloughs.[4] Consider this: UC revenue from student fees has tripled in the last eight years. The ratio of state general fund revenue to student fee revenue in 1997 was 3.6:1. Last year it was 1.9:1. If we used that $800 million to reduce student fees, the ratio would go back to the 1997 value.[5] To put another way, it could pay the educational fees for 100,000 resident undergraduates.

Of course the budget crisis is more complex than this. Of course we must try to convince the state government and the public of the wisdom of investment in our university system. But changing attitudes about public investment is a large task that involves far more than just UC. I’m not sure that those who are reluctant to increase UC support will be swayed by arguments presented by a UC president whose 2008 compensation was $828,000. Or by a new UC Davis chancellor whose salary (27 percent greater than that of her predecessor) equals that of the US president.

Our effort to solve the budget problems has a greater chance for success if we first aim at something we have direct control over. UC has shared governance (in theory), and does its own hiring. I suggest that we — administrators, faculty, staff and students — review the justification, costs, and benefits related to the explosive growth in senior management. If we could reduce management costs by $800 million, we could eliminate much of the financial hardship on students and staff. We could argue convincingly to the governor and state legislature that a well-run UC deserves full support. Perhaps most impressive, we could present a model for turning back a nationwide trend in university hiring.


[1] Source:

[2] Source:

[3] Source:

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[5] Source:

18 Responses to “Soon every faculty member will have a personal senior manager: Is this a good way to spend money?”

  1. Aldo ANtonelli says:

    How is “senior management” defined in the study?

  2. Markus Luty says:

    It would be good to have more detail about what kind of employees are growing faster than the faculty. I agree with Aldo above that more information would be very appreciated.

    From a concerned UC Davis physics professor

  3. Richard Evans says:

    I used the Management and Senior Professionals and Senior Management Group FTE data for the senior management numbers. I don’t know all of the job titles that fall within those groups; they were lumped together without any details in the tables available at (cited above). Professional and Support Staff are excluded, as are academic staff (academic administrators, faculty, lecturers, librarians, UC Extension, etec.). I don’t think much of the growth in senior management has occurred in academic departments, or even in colleges. In fact, I don’t know how to account for this growth. That alarms me!

  4. Steve says:

    It would be good to know if this trend remains when you restrict the analysis to only state-funded positions, excluding areas like the med centers and the NASA-funded contract at Ames. Around here, we’ve also had department managers reclassed as MSPs because of growth of their units, without increase in actual staff numbers. (In fact, sometimes a decrease in staffing can drive an increase in classification, as individual jobs become more complex.)

  5. Onuttom Narayan says:

    I agree that a more detailed analysis could make the conclusion more complicated. However, after this issue has been pointed out repeatedly to the administration, who have all the data, it is incumbent on them to demonstrate that the prima facie conclusion is wrong and their hypothetical explanations (the same ones each time) are correct.

    Regarding the restriction to state funded positions, the difference between the average growth rate from 1996 to 2008 for SMG+MSP and ladder rank faculty positions is 6.3% at UCSC compared to 5.5% systemwide, despite the fact that we have no medical centers or professional schools. I think it is unlikely that our NASA Ames contract compensates for this lack, but the administration can and should easily show if I am wrong.

    Regarding reclassification of staff positions, the recent UC Davis administrative task force report (which I hope someone can post a link to) acknowledges this as a substantial factor at Davis. However, the same report explains why reclassification is not benign and has significant negative consequences.

  6. For more detailed analysis of this growth in UC management bureaucracy, see my papers, Financing the University – Parts 12, 13, 14, posted at

  7. Richard Evans says:

    I’m sure that either new hires or reclassification is justified (using the word loosely) on growth of units. Cyril Northcote Parkinson, in his 1955 Economist article entitled Parkinson’s Law (, stated two axioms:

    1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
    2. Officials make work for each other.

    Parkinson also said “[I]n any public administrative department not actually at war a staff increase may be expected to follow the formula x = (2k^m + p)/n, and that this would invariably yield an annual growth rate between 5.17% and 6.56%.” That fits pretty well with UC management growth, and is in accordance with those two axioms.

    I wondered about med school management driving up the numbers, too. However, growth of senior management at UCSF falls right in line with that on the other campuses.

  8. Jeff de Ropp says:

    I have already exchanged some emails with Richard about this. I am one of the MSPs referred to above – I am at the lowest level, MSP-I, as MSO of my department. My point to Richard is that the statistic of one senior manager per faculty is incomprehensible. In our College we have ~200 ladder-rank faculty for which we have one Dean, three Assoc Deans, one Asst Dean and about half the 7 MSOs are at MSP-I level. That makes ~10 MSP level people at most, or a 20/1 ratio of faculty to MSPs. I think this is typical of most colleges.

    If we have 10 MSPs that means there needs to be 190 (!) MSPs somewhere else to hit the 1:1 ratio. Where are the other 190 MSPs hiding?

  9. […] the UC burns, our thing | by eric The Council of UC Faculty Associations’ website runs this graph (click on it to see it full […]

  10. […] Richard Evans’ article: “A report on administrative growth by the UCLA Faculty Association[3] estimated that UC […]

  11. […] The response to evidence that UCSC is not reducing its administration at the same rate as instruction and staff is similar to the earlier case of the security guard.  Administrative officials promise to look into it, but I’m guessing it’s not high on their priority list.  It looks like the administration uses the same tactics when dealing with the Academic Senate as were used with the treesit and GSC occupation: wait it out, hope that memories fade, and completely ignore concerns.  I think the physics professor had a different graph, but the one below shows the same problem (from here: […]

  12. […] Richard Evans, writing about the University of California system: In the decade beginning in 1997, while faculty increased by 24 percent and student enrollment increased 39 percent, senior management grew by 118 percent. […]

  13. anonymous says:

    Yeah. More detailed numbers would be helpful. This number could probably be spun any way you want to support your point. Additionally, EVEN if we do concede that there are indeed more senior managers that faculty, which I am not conceding, doesn’t it make sense in the larger scheme of things? The UCs are a huge entity. Academics although the primary purpose is only one small part of the org chart needed to run such a large institution. There are “senior managers” responsible not only for various academic policies (provost and vice provosts) but there are also administrators responsible for university communications, alumni relations, fundraising, facilities and operations, local/state/federal government relations/lobbying, student affairs which in itself contains athletics, student health, various student centers, bookstore, student housing, student unions, etc. Although instinctively we would presume that there should be more faculty than administrators, I think in reality that is not realistic. We are not talking about a local elementary school or junior high were there are more teachers than managers, we are talking about a HUGE university which is akin to a large corporation. In many ways the students can be considered the “workers” of that corporation and the managers and faculty as the corporate executives. I think in the larger picture, I think this ratio is either skewed or makes sense given the large nature of the institution.

    This is not to say that there are cuts that could be made. Indeed the administration is making many cuts and have left OPEN many vacant positions. I just think its deceiving to say that the UC could have saved $800M if its managers grew at the same rates as other groups. Its a huge assumption that the groups would ever grow at the same rate and further its a even larger unsupported assumption that not all of those positions were not required.

  14. David Wol says:

    This information should be well publicized. In fact, it is the type of outrageous waste of resources that could (and should) generate an initiative to peg the ratio of management to tenured professors similar (or less) than was present in the early 1990s. Administrators will never decrease in number or percentage without such decrease being mandated by law. It is a bit rigid, but any measure that allows leeway to management to regulate its numbers will be ineffective.

  15. […] In the University of California system, there’s a similar trend: […]

  16. […] Richard Evans, On the disproportionate growth of administrators at UC […]

  17. […] doubt that’s true at the University of California, if today’s report is correct [HT: Marginal Revolution]. Data available from the UC Office of the President shows that […]

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