Is it all about networking?

Right at the beginning of my academic year, when I was a new lecturer in an illustrious academic institution, an older colleague pulled me aside at a faculty reception and said, ‘I’m now going to give you the most important higher education lesson you’ll ever get’. And so for the next five minutes I sat next to him as he pointed one by one to everyone in the room and classified each one either as a ‘scholar’ or a ‘networker’; because, as he insisted, you could not be both.

He was I think aiming to recruit me to the ranks of what he considered to be scholars, and I guess that right now he is hugely disappointed in me, because he probably thinks I became a networker par excellence. In fact, is that really what a university head is – a networker, and nothing much else? You might almost think so from a piece written by two American university presidents in the Chronicle of Higher Education recently. Looking to give advice to new presidents, they suggest the following:

‘…Perhaps the single most important lesson that we can pass on to new university presidents is the indisputable importance of building and fostering relationships.’

Then they spell out which relationships need to be fostered, which it turns out is every possible relationship you could imagine, with absolutely everyone.

I am not ashamed of my skills as a networker. If we want to understand the society we live in and if we want to change it for the better, we have to be networkers. But networking is a means, not an end, and to put it to good use you have to understand and contribute to the larger scholarly purpose. So, the really good leader in the academy is both a networker and a scholar.

Explore posts in the same categories: university


You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

2 Comments on “Is it all about networking?”

  1. cormac Says:

    I found the CHE article very strange, full of well-intentioned but vague statements. It reminded me of the complaint I frequently hear about the governance of my own, and other, colleges – that management are far too removed from the nuts and bolts of teaching and research, the core activities of the college, A single hour’s teaching per week for a college president would work wonders…after all, I know many academics who manage to run a successful research program on top of a full teaching load…

  2. Vincent Says:

    Sorry, I’ve got a bit of a show going on at the mo, so wasn’t able to comment on this one.

    There has been something of a curse in Ireland, and to a lesser extent in the UK where with the loss of good jobs administering an empire left lots of people a bit dazed. The typical make-up of these people hinges on loss. They remember grandparents that had good pensions on a retired list which allowed a certain lifestyle. The few horses in training, the yearly trip to Madeira or Cyprus. The good if not very extensive cellar. And for your POV the kids in a good English public school. A distaste for money and a real terror at its loss.
    How does anyone function -even a 1st year student- in a university without major networking. The real problems arise when the outside worlds networks impinge, be that political or old-school ties.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: