UC 101: Educating Our New President – Lesson #4

UC 101: Educating Our New President

Lesson #4 – Overgrown Administrative Bureaucracies – August 19, 2013

 by Charles Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley
Posted at http://UniversityProbe.org
[Introduction, July 22; Lesson #1, July 29;  Lesson #2, August 5;
Lesson #3, August 12 ]

This lesson will, incidentally, showcase two classical Methods of Inquiry that are ingrained in the academic world:  the Scientific Method, involving the collection and analysis of empirical data; the Socratic Method, involving a series of questions put forward to stimulate critical thinking about some puzzle.

The particular objective here is to understand what appears to be long-term cancerous growth of the managerial sector in the University of California. The following graph shows the latest data; and the text after that conveys a sad story of official responses.


The University of California provides a regular tally of its employees, going back over many years, posted at http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/stat/  Here one can see twice-yearly statistics of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) counts in three major categories, with two dozen subcategories:

• Management (Senior Management Group – SMG, Management & Senior Professionals – MSP)
• Academic Staff (Faculty, Researchers, Librarians, Student Assistants, etc.)
• Professional and Support Staff – PSS (Clerical, Fiscal, Health Care, Technical, Craft, etc.)

I have written up several studies starting with this data, and they are posted at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz under the series heading, “Financing the University.”

In “Part 6” of that series, posted 9/1/2003, I noted that over the period Oct 1996 to Oct 2002, Total Academic Staff had grown by 22%, Total PSS Staff had grown by 21%, and Management had grown by 69%.  I also noted that one particular subdivision of PSS – Fiscal, Management and Staff Services – also showed abnormal growth at 68%. I recommended that “UC should bring in some independent business efficiency experts to look critically at administration spending and identify possible savings.” That paper, widely distributed to UC leadership, received no response.

A year later, when Berkeley’s new Chancellor Robert Birgeneau made his first appearance before the local Academic Senate, I presented him with a similar page of employment data for this campus and asked him to look into this apparent burgeoning of our bureaucracy.  He said that he would look into this but, in fact, I never heard from him about that.

Early in 2006, I wrote this up again and mailed it to UC President Bob Dynes, with a specific request that he look into this and see if there was any reasonable explanation for why UC’s management staff continued to grow at such an inordinate pace.  He never replied. However, I also sent copies of that letter to a couple of faculty Senate leaders and one of them did respond in a responsible manner. Professor Stan Glantz (of UCSF), as Chair of the system-wide Committee on Planning and Budget, looked into this data with his staff, wrote up his own findings and forwarded that to the head of the Academic Senate with the following conclusions.

The growth in management relative to faculty and students is disturbing, however, because it is difficult to reconcile with the notion that research and teaching are the University’s top priorities.

UCPB would like this analysis to be forwarded to President Dynes with a request for an explanation of the noted trends and disparities. We would also appreciate knowing whether UC’s future growth plans will continue in the same direction or be modified and, if so, based on what factors.

On June 14, 2006, President Dynes, speaking to the Assembly of the Academic Senate, said that he had appointed a special task force (some Vice Presidents and Senate leaders) to look into this matter; and he added his opinion that the outsized growth in management positions was probably attributable to the University’s medical centers. That prompted me to write him another letter, pointing out that his hypothesis was very doubtful, since the two campuses that showed the highest rate of management growth, namely Berkeley and Santa Cruz, had no medical schools. I also offered to meet with his special task force and provide some background from my earlier studies of UC’s administrative bureaucracy.  I never heard from the President, nor have I heard of any further activity by that special task force he appointed to look into this matter.

On May 2, 2007, I issued “Part 12” of that same series of papers, updating this study of UC employment data. Looking at the 10-year interval, Oct 1996 to Oct 2006, it showed:

Academic Staff grew by 34%
Professional and Support Staff grew by 27%
Management grew by 118% — to 7,381 FTE
and that subdivision Fiscal, Management, etc. grew by 98% — to 17,345 FTE

With the total UC employment having grown by 31%, I calculated the apparent excess of positions in those two management categories and estimated that this cost the University about $600 million per year in salaries. I wrote that this looks like a lot of wasteful administrative bloat and asked, Who cares?  Again, no response.

The next step involved getting more detailed employment data. Working under the California Public Records Act, and with assistance from the relevant staff at UCOP, I was able to obtain (at a moderate cost) Excel files listing over 1500 Job descriptions, with the FTE counts for each, as of those same dates in 1996 and 2006. This let me identify the main sub-sub-categories involved in that rapid growth and consider how to regard each one. The Executive Program (SMG) held nearly constant in size, at around 300. The MSO positions (the chief staff administrator in each academic department) also showed very little change. So I put those groups aside. I also noticed that there was rapid growth in the jobs related to Computer technical work; but that seemed like an area of rapid growth for an obvious real need.  So I put those aside also.

Additional information about job descriptions left the strong impression that the major positions in “Fiscal, Management and Staff Services” were fairly sophisticated (e.g., requiring a college degree) and served as immediate support for the higher level of managers in the MSP class. This was a picture of what one would call a bureaucracy.

What was thus isolated – and this is shown in my paper “Part 13” of 9/30/07 – was a reduced set of administrative positions, showing even more rapid growth rates, yielding the same overall estimate of $600 million per year in apparent wastage. That paper closed with, “I do not claim it is proven that all of that $600 Million is wasted but, given the data presented here, I do challenge UC officials to demonstrate that it is not.”

Finally, “Part 14”, published 2/13/08, reported on newer data that let me separate the Health Sciences (showing a total wastage of $263 million) and the remaining General Campuses (at $342 million). Additionally, the latter was separated campus-by-campus, with the worst examples of this apparent bureaucratic bloat in terms of dollars wasted per year being:
Berkeley – $91 million;  UCLA – $54 million.

That paper closed with the suggestion that people on each campus should confront their top officials with this data and ask for explanations.  The Faculty Association at UCLA did contact me and then undertook their own study of this data, confirming and extending my findings.

In November of 2008 I went to a meeting arranged by the local Academic Senate and handed out copies of the following graph, which summarized this subject of bureaucratic growth for the Berkeley campus.


At that meeting Chancellor Birgeneau came over to talk to me and so I handed him a copy of this graph. (He is a physicist, like me, and so I am sure he was immediately able to appreciate what the data said.) I asked him to look into this problem. He said something about maybe it had to do with increases in research; and then he handed the paper back to me and walked away.

Well, I did try to see if increased research activity over the decade might have produced a need for more management positions on our campus. Without going into details, I’ll just say that I did not find evidence for that.

In the spring of 2009, amidst the growing tensions over the UC budget crisis, I did write a letter to UC President Mark Yudof, complaining about “Budget Lies” coming out of his office. (See the April 11 letter to Yudof posted at http://UniversityProbe.org .)  One issue I raised was this. “In previous papers, ‘Financing the University – Parts 12-14’, I have demonstrated that there is a much larger constellation of management bureaucracy throughout UC, which has grown enormously over the past decade and is now estimated to waste some $600 million per year.  The Senior Management Group, which you talk about here, is just the tip of that iceberg.”

A month later I received a detailed letter of response from Vice President Patrick Lenz, who said that he was writing on behalf of President Yudof. His full letter and my analysis of it are available at “Part 18”. Addressing my studies of excessive growth in management his first comments were;

“Regarding the growth in management and senior professional employment, the University is an increasingly complex and growing organization which necessitates an increase in staffing levels to provide management/administrative infrastructure and professional analytical support. Some of the forces driving these changes include student enrollment growth, … , and a very significant increase in the number of contracts and grants awarded.”

All right, the University grows; but my analysis looked at the difference between management growth rates and total employee (or total enrollment) growth rates. That is what I called “excess” growth; and he has not explained any of that.

Then he went on to talk about the rapid growth in the use of “information systems and technology” and “the internet and computer technology” throughout the University; and he noted that this “has also created new needs for professional analysts to meet the needs of a modern organization.” I agree entirely with this observation; and that is why in my papers, I specifically removed the computer-related sub-categories from the list showing apparent excess in management positions.

In sum, then, Lenz found no shortcoming in my study of apparent excessive management; he could offer no justification for this bloat; and he had no quibble with my estimate that this is a wastage of $600 million per year.

Shortly after that, the Chancellor at Berkeley announced Operation Excellence, bringing in outside management experts to help us do our jobs better. I was invited to participate. I had some skepticism about what happens when top management hires an expert consulting firm to address a problem that top management was told about and should have taken care of long ago; but I agreed to cooperate. I met with one of the outside consultants and also met with the relevant Vice Chancellor and shared all of my data and analysis with them. There was no discernable result.

More recently, I have gathered more of this data going back to 1991 and going forward to 2012. The raw results are shown in that graph at the beginning of this lesson and there one sees that the outsized growth in Management has been unabated. In Table 1, below, is the latest data showing the apparent Excess of FTE’s for those suspect categories.

Table 1. A Ratio in excess of that for Total Employees gives the Excess FTE

Employment Category Oct 1993 Oct 2012 Ratio Excess
Management (SMG & MSP) 2,804 9,457 3.373 5,258
Fiscal, Management & Staff Svcs 7,162 19,334 2.700 8,609
Total Employees 93,458 139,963 1.498 0.0

If I take the typical annual salary of an MSP employee at $120,000 and that for a typical PSS employee at $60,000, then I get a total cost for the Excess management jobs at UC to be just over $1.1 Billion per year.  That is a lot of money and, absent credible justification, it is a lot of waste.

One may conclude, from the long history described above, that the established leadership of UC is unable or unwilling to face up to this challenge. A new President, coming from outside, could do something very useful.

I advise the incoming President of the University of California to order a scrupulous evaluation of possible excesses in the management structure throughout the University.

The natural way to implement that project is for her to order the top Vice President of Business Operations to investigate and provide detailed justifications for the apparent Excesses in Management that are indicated by this uncontested data. If that justification does not succeed in covering the full weight of the apparent Excess indicated above, then all remaining Excess weight shall be removed, under order from that same Vice President.

This is what is usually called, accountability. Let’s give it a real try.


Well, that completes the four lessons I had planned.

Nobody has volunteered to provide any additional lessons.

What do I do now? Give a final exam and ask for student evaluations?


  1. rick sterling said,

    August 19, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Excellent report and analysis! It will be a wonderful surprise if the incoming President follows up.

    Here is a tangentially related comparison: One of the major reasons for the accreditation problems at City College of San Francisco is that (according to the accreditation commission) there are too FEW administrators. The commission is composed almost entirely of administrators/managers. Responding to state funding cutbacks, CCSF made the dangerous choice of reducing administrators instead of faculty and classes (students). They have thus brought on the wrath of the Accreditation Commission ….. how dare they.

  2. Tanya Smith said,

    August 19, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

    Once again, Professor Schwartz’s UniversityProbe provides critical data and analysis of current UC practices and management bloat. This student’s evaluation:

    excellent presentation of extremely disturbing facts and trends

  3. Tuesday Links! | Gerry Canavan said,

    August 20, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

    […] of management bureaucracy throughout UC, which has grown enormously over the past decade and is now estimated to waste some $600 million per year. The Senior Management Group, which you talk about here, is just the tip of that […]

  4. confusophilia said,

    August 22, 2013 @ 10:08 am

    Or, because of the generic freeze on salaries at a certain job title, the only way to increase salaries was to promote folks into job titles that carry responsibilities that aren’t really appropriate for their work. The academic job titles don’t really do this sort of thing… not so easy to get the V to VI promotion.

  5. Charlie Schwartz said,

    August 22, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    That idea – that reclassification of staff jobs has created an apparent increase in management positions – has been suggested to me a number of times. Two things make me think it is not a significant explanation for the problem: (1) If these promotions came from the “Fiscal, Management and Staff Services” job category, then one would expect to see a decrease in those positions; but in fact that category has itself been growing quite rapidly. (2) If this were a significant explanation for the apparent management bloat, then why haven’t the top officials – to whom I have repeatedly complained about this data – offered that as an explanation?

  6. hank gehman said,

    August 22, 2013 @ 12:14 pm


    I think that this study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities throws some further light on the UC funding/spending crisis.
    The study surveys at the state funding cuts for higher education and the tuition increases at those institutions for FY08-FY13.
    California stands out from all the other states. Funding cuts were 29.3%-about average. But tuition was increased 72%. That difference-42.7%- was significantly more than any other state. And this despite the drastic budget cuts which should have reduced the need fro higher tuition.
    The other state that stands out for me is Arizona, It cut by 50.4% and increased tuition by 78.4%. This occured after Janet Napolitano resigned as governor to go to the DHS and left the state goovernment in Republican hands. I wonder what she thinks about that.
    Also, the only states that avoided funding cuts have an oil severance tax to support higher ed.

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