Operational support for one KTH
Fewer departments, a single management team for operational support for research and education, and a separate President’s staff office. This is the framework set out in the proposal for a new administration structure for KTH – an organisation that will help to create a more cohesive KTH.
This winter and spring, a working group has investigated how KTH’s operational support should be organised to make it clearer, more efficient and more consistent, a review that was called for by the change in the school structure.
“Operational support needs to enable KTH to provide the best possible education and research provision. So after this kind of restructuring, we naturally need to examine how the support system might need to be modified to match,” comments President Sigbritt Karlsson.
One key approach underlying the review was that the administration must be seen as an integrated part of operations at KTH. The terms “operations” and “operational support” are used throughout for this reason.
“Talking about core activity and ancillary activity is the wrong approach. And the word administration also signals passive administration that does not remotely correspond to reality,” says Sigbritt Karlsson.
Gathering functions together
The main features of the proposal now being submitted to the President involve gathering similar functions into larger, more overarching departments. For example, it is proposed that a new Education Support department encompasses both the current Student’s Office, responsible for student services and the Academic Registry, responsible for education administration. A department named Research Support is to include the current Research Office, Fundraising and Contract Law.
“The aim is to build operational support that focuses on how a task is best performed and the skills needed whether this is support provided close to operations, at school level or at central level,” explains Leif Kari, Head of the School of Engineering Sciences, SCI, the convenor of the working group.
Leif Kari emphasises that the starting point for the working group was not to cut costs but to create more appropriate processes and strengthen cooperation both between different departments and with research and education.
“The watchwords are proximity, accessibility and trust. On the other hand, I am convinced that more efficient operational support will lead to lower costs.”
In its report the working group found that the current organisation suffers from a silo effect to a certain extent. This risks leading to duplication and poorer quality due to failing to use expertise that exists in other departments, or to some questions falling between two departments.
“The university’s administrative staff are extremely competent and each department has its own processes. However, there are failings in communication between the departments,” says Leif Kari.
The different schools have also developed different ways of running operational support and created their own, local solutions to problems as they have arisen. Different schools might manage tests in different ways, for example.
“This gets confusing for students, who naturally expect to be treated and handled in the same way no matter which school is running the course. It is clear that we must be more consistent on these types of procedures.”
The working group therefore proposes a changed central organisation for one KTH-wide operational support system, with strong links to the needs of the academic community and the schools. It is also proposed that operational support be at the same level in the organisational structure as the five schools and that the head of operational support thus rank at the same level as the heads of schools.
Decision before Midsummer
The proposal does not mean that this KTH-wide operational support must always be in the same physical location. Leif Kari reassures staff that need to be close to particular activities that they will still be able to be located nearby.
“And in the future we will also have to allow some local solutions depending on the schools’ different needs. But at the moment we have slightly too many different solutions.”
Alongside operational support geared towards research and education, a separate President’s Office will also be established. A new post of university director will be established to lead it.
“Things happen so much more quickly now than they used to, so both I and the Deputy President need a staff office capable of providing us with analyses and data ahead of changes and decisions,” says Sigbritt Karlsson.
Sigbritt Karlsson plans to reach a decision before Midsummer so that work can begin on implementation as quickly as possible. Sights are set on the new organisation being in place on 1 January 2019.
Text: Ursula Stigzelius