School of thought for creative mandarins : Graduate Plus: MANAGEMENT

Liza Donaldson finds out how the head of the Civil Service College is grooming today's model bureaucrat

This year one of the UK's largest and most influential management colleges celebrates its 25th birthday. The Civil Service College boasts a turnover of around £19m a year - bigger than Cranfield School of Management and Ashridge Management College, for instance. While the college's core business is the training and development of middle to top government staff, especially in short courses of a week or less, it is a sign of the times that it is understood to have won a joint bid in partnership with Cranfield and Manchester Business School to launch a Master of Business Administration degree.

Similarly telling is the fact that this year's prospectus offers a new course on understanding Civil Service ethics. It aims to tune mandarins' ears to alarm bells ringing when conflicts of interest arise. The course will also embrace the Government's recently announced code of conduct for the Civil Service.

The college was given the go-ahead by Harold Wilson, and opened by his successor as Prime Minister, Edward Heath, in 1970. Today it supplies 3 per cent of all Civil Service training, from middle managers upwards, but providesalmost a third of training from grades seven to the lofty heights of permanent secretary, including a strong input into the Cabinet Office-run top management programme. In recent years it has shaken off an academic, musty reputation with a new emphasis on management over administration.

Stephen Hickey, who became chief executive after 20 years of Department of Social Security experience, says the college's slogan echoes the new thrust of the Civil Service: "Management for Government". Dr Hickey, who gained his PhD in history, is well placed to judge how the mandarins' role, and therefore the college's, is being transformed. The public management revolution, with the 102 executive agencies and the new cadre of customer-orientated chief executives, the issues flowing from the Citizen's Charter and from market testing, means that "by historical standards the Civil Service is going through more change - structurally and in ways of working - than it has since the period before the war". The changes, including the focus on managing money on tight budgets, mean, he adds, that "the slogan about doing more for less is true - because that is what the Civil Service is being asked to do".

The college's role is "to help civil servants through that agenda of change". The stereotype of the bowler-hatted bureaucrat, the passive administrator obeying orders from above, is gone. Today's model mandarin is the proactive, imaginative manager-leader, setting a strategic direction within a framework decided by ministers, devolving responsibility down the line. This generation, he says, needs a new set of personal attributes and skills, as well as the latest management techniques.

The college is thriving amid this ferment. As Dr Hickey admits, "In a sense we have a vested interest in change." The college has increased its volume of training in the past year by 3 per cent, to 96,370 student days, and its income by 13 per cent. The White Paper Continuity and Change spelt out the college's remit to help meet the training needs of departments and agencies and as a centre for "the cross-fertilisation of ideas between departments and between the wider Civil Service and the economy".

While the college's future in the public sector looks secure, with privatisation ruled out last year, Dr Hickey is not complacent. From April a residual government grant of £700,000 will cease and the college has to be self- sufficient. In addition, since departments and agencies can pick their own training, it has no guaranteed markets.

Difficult as these changes are to grasp from Dr Hickey's timeless Sunningdale office, set among 20 acres of lakes and deer-populated parkland, he and his team have been dreaming up new ways of attracting customers. They recognise they have a shrinking Civil Service market, falling, some predict, from around 500,000 to a core of 50,000. One solution being considered is to put the college's prospectus on the Internet. The college could attract more business in the private sector on top of nearly 1,000 business and industry students.

A programme called "Young Node" already enables future leaders of the public and private sectors to mingle and swap experiences. Dr Hickey, himself seconded in 1989 for 18 months to Rank Xerox, stresses that the traffic is two-way, with the college acting as a bridge. Management insights are injected into the Civil Service from speakers such as GEC Marconi's chief, Lord Weinstock, as well as political leaders such as Michael Gorbachev and the former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey.

"We are trying to balance with public accountability the need to be extremely efficient managerially. These are demanding tasks, where the answers are not straightforward. That is the challenge that makes working in the public sector exciting," he says.

The college and Dr Hickey are looking beyond the UK. The college helped to prepareSouth Africans for government; it has contracts with Namibia, and, in Eastern Europe, with Hungary. The interchange "adds a valuable dimension to our domestic work and helps us to see where we are good and where we have weaknesses", says Dr Hickey.

However, unlike local government, where the training of elected members is encouraged, none is planned for MPs or would-be ministers by the college. Dr Hickey is open-minded about the idea. "If putative ministers would like something, we would be delighted to see what we can arrange," he says.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam