Discuss the specific characteristics of modern bureaucracy, using your university as a concrete example.

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Although there will be some characteristics specific to your university, several elements of the bureaucracies that run universities are so ubiquitous as to be practically universal. Two characteristics that have become increasingly prevalent in university administration over the past few decades are a high level of automation and a general dependence on numerical data. These traits are common in all modern bureaucracies, and the larger your university is, the more pronounced they are likely to be.

The two characteristics often appear together in a single process. Take admissions as an example. The university admissions process is now highly automated. An admissions tutor is likely to have many pieces of information, such as high school transcripts, GPAs and SAT scores, for all applicants in one database. There may well be a program to weed out applicants with unacceptably low scores in certain areas. The importance of face-to-face interviews and data which cannot be numerically quantified, such as letters of recommendation, has decreased greatly.

Just as the university will focus on test scores and GPAs to assess candidates, administrators will be constantly aware of the need to maintain and enhance their institution's performance in numerically-based league tables. Similar numerical targets are relevant to other modern bureaucracies. A great deal of time and effort will be devoted to optimizing performance in certain key areas, while other areas, which cannot easily be measured, will be neglected. The numbers will often affect academic decisions. For instance, if one of the performance metrics for universities is the percentage of matriculating students who graduate four years later, administrators will be very reluctant to allow students to drop out once they have matriculated.

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