Posted to: John Delaney, President University of North Florida
“A recent widely published study indicates that 3 to 1 is the ideal ratio of faculty to administrators at a university. Data on the SUS web site indicates UNF’s ratio is 2 to 1, if we include non-tenure- track faculty, and that our ratio is worse than many others in the SUS. What can UNF do to improve these numbers, operate more efficiently, and reduce the administrative bloat?”
Written response from Dr. Thomas Serwatka, Vice President & Chief of Staff to the President:
Unfortunately, there are two different problems with the data that the anonymous faculty member was using as the basis for this question.
The data on the SUS website were drawn from IPEDS data submitted by each institution. In most cases, the data we are required to send to IPEDS are very standardized and precisely prescribed. There are, however, some elements that require university judgment.
The IPEDS directions for this data element state that managerial-level people should be included in the executive/administrative category if the individuals spend at least 80 percent of their time in administrative tasks, as opposed to providing direct service. When UNF enters its data, we do so based on title and fail to measure the amount of time spent on direct services. Our submission includes directors and assistant directors while other institutions do not. In some cases, our directors are appropriately included in this category: for example, the director of the Florida Institute of Education. In many other instances, the individuals who hold the title of director are spending considerably more than 20 percent of their time in providing direct services. And, it is highly unlikely that any of our assistant directors even comes close to the 80 percent criteria, yet we include them under this code. We need to work on our system of reporting to make it more consistent with the definition and/or the practices across the state.
One other reason that may cause the significant differences you see on the tables presented by the SUS is that UNF includes its auxiliary services employees in this count. We have reason to believe that some other institutions are only counting E&G funded positions.
Before any meaningful comparisons across institutions can be made, we need to standardize coding for this element. Our Office of Institutional Research has been asked to see if the system can address these discrepancies in reporting data. When we get this resolved, it is likely that our data will more accurately reflect the national norms.