What makes us ‘professional’ university administrators?

Professionalism is something you see, hear and experience and is comprised of a set of behaviours.  A professional always aims to give the best they can.

As university administrators, we seek to maintain high professional standards.  We could do an “acceptable” job – but we always try to do an “exceptional” job.

But have we ever stopped to consider what makes us professional?  We asked this question to our colleagues in the Professional Administration Centre in the School of Engineering and Digital Arts and came up with several ideas as follows:  Our approach to service – we put our customers and users first (students & academic colleagues).  We are qualified (graduates or with graduate level professional qualifications).  We have numerous competences and skills and are good at what we do.  We strive for greater performance and for continued professional development and we belong to the professional organisation for University administrators (AUA), who provide us with a toolkit and resources to help improve our professional behaviours and deal with the ever changing complexities of Higher Education.

Students use our services, as administration staff,  as their first port of call. The blurring of lines between professional services staff and teaching staff has meant that in recent years, we have taken on more of the traditional duties of the “academic” and there is a constant need for us to provide a greater level of service outside of traditional teaching and research functions.

Twenty first  century university  administration staff sees administrators adding enormous value to, and impact on, the whole student experience, to the extent that front-line teaching, research,  enterprise and all external and commercial activities are greatly enhanced by the kind of day to day roles that we  provide.  We respond to customers’ needs, pursue complex tasks, deliver innovative solutions, drive the student experience, facilitate learning and development, effect outcomes and respond to change.  As professional university administrators, we provide high quality professional services, we have developed an appreciation of academic culture, are sensitive to the needs of a variety of diverse clients, accept responsibility for our actions and share expertise and good practice.  As such, the crucial role we play is integral to the strategic success of the University of Kent

In the light of the University of Kent’s 50th anniversary, it seems like a timely opportunity to showcase how the administrative function has changed in the last 50 years.  We should be celebrating the professional value we bring to the organisation and indeed, our own professional identity.

3 thoughts on “What makes us ‘professional’ university administrators?”

  1. As an active member of ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ Project, I think Catherine has captured the essence of what our Project is all about. For me, it has always been about doing a job in the most professional way and, indeed, our students have recently nominated me for the Professional Services Award. This nomination could not have been more timely as we are trying to promote this Project. What could be a better recognition of my professionalism at work? Whilst I see this nomination as a personal achievement, this could not have happened without the professional work of my team in EDA.

  2. Professionalism requires a particular outlook towards the users of our services and advice. If we have confidence to approach them in a particular way, to assert our views and respond to their needs in an effective manner, then we will draw a different response from them. This might take time, but working relationships can change over time and become more helpful and inspiring.

  3. Professionalism is how we perform our duties, not what we do. Professionalism always entails clearly meeting criteria. Being authentic to who you are is equally vital. True professionals know when and how to challenge conventions and don’t blindly obey regulations. I appreciate you taking on this subject; I learned a lot.

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