Higher education administrator: job description

Higher education administrators undertake a wide variety of supportive, administrative, secretarial, financial and human resources tasks in universities.

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HE administrators can specialise in different areas, from finance to marketing.

What does a higher education administrator do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

HE administrators work within both the central administrative (academic registrars) department and for individual faculties of universities and other higher education establishments. They may specialise in student recruitment, funding, quality assurance, marketing or public relations, or be responsible for budgetary/financial administration, project management or human resources management. Many work in a general capacity, undertaking tasks from all of these areas.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • recruiting, training and managing staff
  • financial/budgetary administration
  • handling correspondence
  • organising and servicing committee meetings (producing agendas, taking minutes etc)
  • researching and writing reports
  • preparing statistics
  • liaising with external organisations
  • formulating and implementing regulations
  • timetabling
  • administering and coordinating student recruitment, examinations and assessment activities

The job can be busy at key points in the academic year, when some long hours may be necessary. There are good opportunities for career progression via promotion into senior administrative, managerial and project management roles, or transfer/secondment between departments. Higher education establishments also generally offer excellent and flexible working conditions.

There is strong competition for both entry and permanent jobs. Vacancies are listed on the website of the Association of University Administrators, alongside volunteering opportunities which may enable you to gain relevant experience. Jobs are also advertised by careers services, in local and national newspapers (particularly The Guardian), in the Times Educational Supplement and in Times Higher Education.

Some universities run graduate training schemes for education administrators, which give an overview of different areas of university management. A number of universities work together on Ambitious Futures, the graduate programme for university leadership, an eighteen-month programme open to graduates with a 2.1 degree or a postgraduate qualification.

Qualifications and training required

A degree is not always required for roles in education administration. However, a good higher national diploma or honours degree in any subject can be helpful for entry into the profession. Alternatively, a business apprenticeship could provide school leavers with qualifications and experience relevant to a career in this area.

A degree in education, English, psychology, sociology, business studies, statistics, IT, administration or management may be beneficial. Previous higher/further education, office or commercial work experience can also be helpful.

Key skills for higher education administrators

It is essential to possess good interpersonal, teamwork, IT, organisational, time management, negotiation, presentation, analysis and communication skills.

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