Ethical interpretations of management decision making in higher education
This paper explores the ethical dimensions of constraint and choice in management decision making at different levels, with a focus on how managers manage and are themselves managed in UK higher education, a sector of national importance and rapid growth. The ethical interpretations are complex, for whilst decision making at state level is seen to meet the needs of various stakeholders, it is argued that the way decisions are enacted in universities is predominantly managerial as funding and quality structures impose a utilitarian ethic. Within this, the scope to take a more humanist decision stance is often over-ridden, resulting in conflict, poor performance, inefficiency and negative, somewhat perverse outcomes for the student learning experience and for knowledge generation. The paper makes the case that ethical sensitivity should be embedded in new management development programmes, thus enabling managers to exercise autonomous reasoning and meet the needs of a wider range of stakeholders.