by Charles Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley                                     May 2, 2007

>>This series is available on the internet at


Here we review three studies, based on UC’s own data, which showed a habit of excessive spending on the University’s administrative structure, and a history of top executives unwilling to deal with this problem.

Three Case Studies of Bureaucratic Bloat

     In this paper I review three earlier case studies, based upon analysis of UC’s own data sources, which show huge excesses in the upper level of administrative staffing and spending throughout the campuses and the system-wide headquarters.

     The first study, covering the last 10 years, shows that staff positions in Management, throughout the University system, have grown at a rate far exceeding the overall growth of employment, with no apparent justification. The bloating implied by this data costs the University many hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

     The second study, covering the mid-1990s and the response to the big cutback in state funding, shows that promises made about UC’s priorities (promises to protect instruction and cut administration the most) were never kept. The third study, covering the early history from 1967 to 1992, shows excessive growth in administrative positions and spending compared to other components of the growing University system.  In each case, we also report how top UC officials, when confronted with this evidence, tried to wish the problem away.

[Note.  There has been much public attention lately to the issue of Executive Compensation at the University.  That is focused on the Senior Management Group, which is a very small part, in numbers and in dollars, of what we study here.]

Case I. Data 1996-2006

     Table 1, below, shows comparative numbers of UC employees in various job classifications over this recent ten-year interval. This data shows that Management grew at the highest pace (+118%), far exceeding the overall employment growth (+31%). Why is this so?
TABLE 1.  Total Employment Numbers at UC:  Management Grows the Most
Personnel Classifications
Oct 1996
Oct 2006

SMG & MSP (Management)
  +118% <<<

Academic Staff:

  Academic Administrators

  Regular Teaching Faculty - Ladder Ranks
  Regular Teaching Faculty - Acting Ranks

  Other Teaching Faculty
  Student Assistants

  Cooperative Extension

  University Extension

  Other Academic Personnel

Sub-Total Academic Staff

Professional and Support Staff:

  Clerical & Allied Services
23,092 20,218
  Communications-Arts & Graphics
  Architecture, Enginering & Applied Svc

  Fiscal, Management & Staff  Svc
   +98% <<<
  Food & Linen Services
  Health Care & Allied Services
  Maintenance, Fabrication, & Operations
  Protective Services
  Sciences, Laboratory & Allied Services
  Student Services

Sub-Total PSS

TOTAL Employment

Student Enrollment

Numbers above count FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) positions, excluding DOE laboratories.
SMG = Senior Management Group
MSP = Management and Senior Professionals

     Data of this sort was first published in my report, “Financing the University – Part 6“, issued 9/1/2003.  There was no response from University officials.  

     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 again.

     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.

     To put this issue into some kind of scale, one may ask, How much money is involved? If one assumes that the Management staff should increase no faster than the total employment staff (a very generous assumption, given the theory of “economy of scale”), then one can calculate:
Excess SMG & MSP positions = (7381 – 1.31*3380) = 2,953;
and with a median salary for these positions at around $100,000 this amounts to an excess annual expenditure of some $300 Million.

     If one also notes the job classification, “Fiscal, Management and Staff Services”, with a 98% job growth (which I assume to be the sub-ordinate staff of the excessive SMG & MSP staff noted above), that leads to another estimate of $300 Million in annual administrative bloat.  That adds up to a lot of wasted moolah.  Who cares?

An Alternative Approach to Measuring Administration

     The first study, above, looks at employment numbers in the University.  An alternative is to look at accounting or budget numbers. In the list of Accounting Categories, which I outlined in the previous paper of this series, there is the item called Institutional Support, which covers administration services at the top level of each campus (under the supervision of the Chancellors) as well as the system-wide administration (under the supervision of the President).  There is also a category called “Academic Administration”, which is a sub-category of Academic Support and covers administrative services at the top of each school or college (under the supervision of the Deans).  Finally, in this hierarchical picture, there are administrative services in each academic department or research unit (under the supervision of the designated Chair or Director).  In the following, I shall focus attention on the data available for the two upper level categories. See the latest data in Table 2.

Table 2.  Expenditure of Current Funds for Upper-Level Administration 2005-06
Institutional Support (Chancellors & President)
$ 764 Million  +  $ 513 Million
Academic Administration (Deans) $ 287 Million  +  $   75 Million
   Source: Campus Financial Schedules

     I should explain the two numbers given for each category. The first number (listed as “Total” expenditure) represents the amount budgeted and spent for this category; the second number (listed as “Transfers”) represents the amount spent under this category but recharged to another category.  For example, if I ask the campus copy service to print up so-many copies of the final exam I will give to my class, the cost of that will be recorded as a Transfer expenditure in a sub-unit of Institutional Support and it will also be recorded as an expense in (recharged to) Instructional expenditures for my department. A different example is the item “Institutional Support Recharges to Campuses”, found under the system-wide accounts.

     The combined total of the administrative expenditures shown in Table 2 is over $1.6 Billion, amounting to 11.5% of the total UC expenditures for that year (excluding the DOE laboratories).  Is that excessive?  One way of approaching that question is to study how those numbers changed over a period of years, compared to some other measure.  That is the method of the case studies to be reviewed next.

Case II. Data 1993-1998

     The state budget crisis of the early 1990s caused the University of California to make severe financial changes in its structure and operations. One of the principles that was repeatedly announced from the Office of the President was that academic programs would be sheltered and administration would be cut the most. Figures from 20% to 27% were presented to describe the magnitude of those promised cuts in administrative budgets.

     In my paper, “Looking Into the UC Budget – Report #7”, is the first account of the discrepancies found between those noble promises and the facts – as revealed by a persistent examination of the University’s annual accounting records.  This is an extended story, lasting from 1993 to 1998 (Reports # 7, 15, 19, 22).

     The first response from University officials was that those cuts in administration were not immediate but would take a while to be phased in. Later studies showed that there was still no evidence of such cuts and, in fact, overall spending for administration had been rising.  In the end, my analysis showed that what had actually happened was merely a shift of the source of funds used to pay for the administrative bureaucracy: income from rapidly rising student fees was replacing large portions of state appropriations which had formerly paid for this.

     At one point, the UC President responded to my critiques by having me meet with his Director of the Budget.  An account of that exchange may be found in my Report #19a.  It is a sorry tale.

Case III. Data 1967-1992

     In the University archives there is a big set of documents called “Departmental Allocations - UC Budget for Current Operations,” published by UCOP, which shows in fine detail how the overall University budget is to be spent – by campus, by function and by type of expenditure – for each fiscal year.  This data source allowed my first systematic exploration of the UC administration.  

     As described in detail in my paper “Looking Into the UC Budget - Report #2”, issued in 1993, I tallied the number of FTE’s designated in the whole UC budget each year for a few selected categories and watched how those numbers increased over this 25-year history. The following Table 3 presents a summary of the results for the count of FTEs (Full Time Equivalent positions) allocated in the budgets. [Note. These budgets do not include UC’s extramurally funded activities, such as sponsored research.]

Table 3.  25-Year History of Selected Budget Categories
Budget Category
FTE (as of 1992)
% Growth Over 25 Years
Instructional Staff
Total Staff
General Administration
Institutional Support

Student Enrollment

     We see that General Administration (management at the campus- and system-wide level) grew twice as fast as growth of the Academics or the Instructional Staff; and Institutional Support (supervision and services at the campus- and system-wide level) grew even faster, at three times that rate!  Something looks awry here.

     After this study was presented before UC officials, there was a formal response produced by the President’s Office.  The most significant criticism they made was that there had been several new types of regulatory requirements placed upon the University over these years – environmental health and safety, affirmative action, collective bargaining, etc. – and that these had administrative costs. Although they gave no numbers for that, I then went over the available records and made adjustments for these factors. (See Report #2b.)  The result was a modest reduction in the relevant numbers shown above; but a very substantial measure of excess remained.  My recommendation was that the Regents ought to bring in some external business efficiency experts to examine our system and see where the wastage could be pinpointed.  That never happened.

     Sometime afterwards, a related study of UC’s long-term growth conducted by researchers in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University was published in one of the leading journals. [ P. J. Gumport and B. Pusser, Journal of Higher Education, Volume 66, page 493 (1995)] They concluded that the data showed an undeniable pattern of “bureaucratic accretion” in this University. This, also, prompted no constructive response from UC officials.

Something New?

     Just as I started to write this paper, there was an announcement from UC headquarters that the University is spending several million dollars to hire a Cambridge management consulting firm to study ways to improve our administrative efficiency.  This, apparently, comes at the instigation of Regent Richard Blum, the new chairman of the Board.  The history recited above might lead one to be skeptical of this new effort since UC’s huge bureaucracy appears so entrenched and well protected from above; but I think we should watch and see how this episode unfolds.