Universities as employers

job satisfaction

At the beginning of the MSc program at NUGSE, we were all asked of our future plans and intentions to contribute into the development of higher education (HE) in Kazakhstan. This was one of the questions in our essays and interviews in the beginning of our studies. Although, most of us might not be aware of the working conditions in HE system. Additionally, there is no research on how satisfied the people in Kazakhstani academia are but the Times Higher Education (THE) has already launched their second research results on the Best University Workplace 2015. And the results are interesting.

THE survey

THE survey embraced 4174 University employees across the UK. THE team found out that academics feel overwhelmed with work in contrast with administrative staff mostly satisfied with their jobs. The number of academics counted less than administrative staff with the first group in 46% and the university related employees in 54%. This ratio is interesting and contrasting the initial university development with academics fulfilling the role of both administrators and faculty. This might be a sign of universities gradually turning into businesses where somehow teaching and research might become less in number and importance but marketing and management will be cutting edge tendencies. Another sign was unhappiness of the faculty because they indicated the feeling of being used which also means that their role is decreasing with the new business flavors prevailing within universities where management strategies are valued more than people. Unfortunately, universities underestimate the opinions of their employees and this might mean there is a lack of communication between university administration and faculty. Overall, this survey shows how universities succeed in acting as employers themselves (for more detailed information please see this). As Kazakhstan is only working at the development of its HE it would have been interesting to see how local universities fulfill the role of an employer.

A closer look into the struggles and rewards of the Kazakhstani university workplace reveals that the new hire must overcome a lengthy transition period. For instance, a recent graduate after several months of job hunt is luckily landing in a middle management position in one of big Kazakhstani institutions. Assuming the main hero is she as the prevailing majority of graduates are females this text goes with reference to her. Her first impressions will be jumping higher than her heels because she eventually could make her dream come true and she is now a head of the department. How proud is this. But then as time goes she now encounters so many challenges she has never thought before. First of all, she has to identify how the whole university system works because every university is filled with its own unique working scent (Bolman and Deal, 2013). Then, she is most likely be going and making contacts with other colleagues and this could happen in two ways: (a) formally – at the meetings; (b) informally – socializing with colleagues (having lunch together will also count). Making contacts will only help her understand who is who but a deeper analysis will make her think what people’s intrinsic interests and goals are. Another cornerstone of the newcomer is figuring out if there are any tensions in the team as she might have to avoid belonging to any “groups” at the first stage of her employment. By this I mean that when a new hire joins the team she might have amiss assumptions and this would play a bad trick with her because once she is associated with any group she might be taken as one of them no matter if she likes them or not. That’s why it is very important to keep a neutral position before she realizes who is who. Otherwise the system will simply throw her away without even giving her a chance to demonstrate her perfect skills and knowledge. Therefore, the final idea would be to work hard and never give anyone a chance to complain on her professional performance and skills.

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2011). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership. John Wiley & Sons.

Times Higher Education website. Retrieved from here 

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