Blog entries

AU has a single, coherent administration

That was the theme of the after-work meeting I held last Wednesday for managers in the administration and the administrative managers from the faculties. The goal of the meeting was to strengthen the relationship between the administrative units, the faculties and the departments/schools.

I have previously named digitisation, process optimisation and competency development as tools we will be working with in order to improve work processes in the administration. But one thing I don’t think we should change is the structure of our organisation. I think that we have a robust organisation with a good balance between daily administrative service of the academic units and the economies of scale achieved by centralising cross-university functions.

Although our organogram is as it should be, it is a poor guide to how we should work together. We have a natural tendency to orient ourselves toward the unit we belong to. For this reason, coherent cross-university administrative service does not come about automatically – it’s something we must make an active effort to create. And as I see it, this begins with the managers in the administration and the administrative managers from the faculties.

This is why I held a meeting last Wednesday for deputy directors,administrative centre manager, division managers, chief advisers and secretariat managers – the entire administrative management team of the university. Participants were interested in meeting their colleagues from other parts of AU, and I heard lively discussion. This is a good foundation for improving our knowledge-sharing and learning from one another’s experiences.

At the meeting, I explained that I think that our working relationships are characterised by a degree of ‘client-supplier’ logic, where we stand on either side of the counter and demand what we think we are entitled to. Instead, I would like us to understand our working relationship as a collaboration on a single core task.

But what is that core task?

I asked the administrative managers to help me answer this question. At the after-work meeting, they were assigned to groups which were asked to describe the central core mission which all administrative employees, irrespective of specialization, are to work toward. In short: What must we as an administration do for whom, and why?

A lot of interesting proposals came out of this (see all of them at the end of this blog post). We voted on the proposals, and the winner was this sentence:

“We handle the administrative tasks at Aarhus University, so that students and academic employees can concentrate on the academic core task.”

From words to action

Several of the other proposals emphasise the university’s obligation to benefit society and the professional pride taken in administrative work. Many also use words like ‘professional’ and ‘efficient’. And all of the proposals contain elements which we can use in order to piece together a shared story. Just as importantly, we have to make sure that it doesn’t become empty words that we automatically recite whenever someone asks us about our work. We have to fill them with meaning and content – and we have to translate them into action.

I would very much like to receive more proposals for how we might formulate our core function as an administration – on the most general level, what do you think we should do for whom, and why? Let me know what you think, either in a comment here on the blog or in a mail to

Suggestions for the administrative core task

S1: AU’s administration works to create the optimal conditions for researchers, teachers and students to deliver knowledge and education to society.

S2: AU’s administration must provide support for our researchers, teachers and students, in order to free up their resources and give them optimal conditions for achieving the best results for the benefit of the development of society.

S3: We must contribute to the university’s core activities with coherent, professional and efficient administration, so that AU can deliver education, research and consultancy of the highest international quality for the benefit of society.

S4: We support and contribute in a professional manner to the development of Aarhus University’s core activities, so that all employees and students encounter a cohesive, user-oriented administration.

S5: We must deliver professional, collaborative service to the academic organisation, the students and the management, so that AU can create value for society.

S6: We must deliver a professional, efficient, legal and coherent administrative contribution to operations and development for academic staff, students and external partners, in order to provide support for the university’s core activities for the benefit of society.

S7: Through a committed, holistic, constructive and efficient effort, the administration must development administrative service for employees and students and contribute to the quality of the core activities for the benefit of the university and society.

S8: Through a professional and cohesive effort, the administration must support Aarhus University in creating and sharing knowledge for the benefit of society.

S9: We handle the administrative tasks at Aarhus University, so that students and academic employees can concentrate on the academic core task.