The Career Prospects Of Confidential Secretary In A Public Establishment

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The Career Prospects Of Confidential Secretary In A Public Establishment


This study examined career prospect of confidential secretary in a public establishment. Questionnaires were administered to secretaries in the public sectors across the state. After the analysis, the researcher made some findings with respect to the sample population study was arrived at. Confidential secretaries are not allowed to make use of their initiatives in carrying out their duties. That secretaries are discriminated in terms of promotions. That secretaries do not enjoy training opportunities as their counterparts in other professions etc. It was also found that the likely effects of these problems include: Low productivity, Poor quality jobs, Lack of job satisfactions and so on. Some recommendations were made on what could be done so as to enhance the prospects of these secretaries.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Secretaries can be founding many areas of employment such as government establishment, industries, commerce, charity organizations and are services of all these, it is perhaps industry which has most to gain by employing the best secretaries and most at loss in employing poor ones.

In the recent time government establishments have seen many changes. One aspect of this change is the increased foreign competition brought about such things as improved freight facilities. Another significant factor in public establishment has been the extensive use of computer systems which has to reduction in routine paper work. Since the emergence of modern approaches to corporate governance1 in the early 1990s, considerable attention has been placed on the accountability and effectiveness of higher education governance systems. The ‘ripple effect’ of large scale governance scandals such as those seen at Barings Bank, Enron and the retail group, Royal Ahold (for a review of which, see Mallin, 2004) and similar problems in the further and higher education sector (described in Shattock, 2006) have led to a wealth of guidance and, more recently, a code of governance practice (CUC, 1995; 1998; 2001; and 2004). The duties and responsibilities of the secretary of the governing body2 feature in the CUC guidance, and in related work by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW, 1997). In both, the secretary is regarded as having a key position in the operation and conduct of the governing body. The secretary coordinates the activities of the governing body and operates the various processes and procedures that lead to the effective management of governing body business. These involve, inter alia, the selection of new governors, their induction, the organisation of governing body and related committee meetings, the production of minutes and arrangements for follow-up action and communication and liaison between the governing body and the rest of the institution. But the role has many other facets.

The secretary may be responsible for the provision of legal and procedural advice, a contributor of information required by the governing body, a counsel to the head of institution3 , chair, and others on the issues being addressed bythe institution and the governing body and, on occasion, an independent voice that can keep the governing body from going astray. The role must often balance the managerial imperative with the transparency and accountability required of institutions in the higher education sector (see, for example, HEFCE, 2006; SFC, 2007; Wotjas, 2007). Shattock (op cit, p.25) concluded that the secretary was now, ‘At the heart of the governance process in a way that would not have been conceivable prior to the events in the mid 1990s’ . At a recent OECD conference van der Wende (2006) considered the way in which higher education institutions were being required to address new measures of accountability in exchange for public resources; maintain high standards of governance to safeguard the values and integrity of universities in the light of increased political intervention; and address the driving force of corporate and related public sector governance developments. It was clear from these proceedings that governance is a ‘live’ issue, in the UK and other higher education systems. It was suggested by van der Wende, however, that improving the effectiveness of higher education governance would require a greater understanding of the behaviour of governing bodies, the power balance between governors and management and issues of trust in the management of governance4 relationships. But whilst the last major update of the Combined Code on Corporate Governance (Higgs, 2003) at least prompted a debate on working relationships within and around company boards (see, for example, McNulty, Roberts and Stiles, 2003), this topic has not been investigated to any great degree in the UK higher education sector. In particular, the role and influence of the secretary has been largely overlooked. In the last major empirical review of UK higher education governance to consider the way in which governing bodies operate, conducted over a decade ago (Bargh, Scott and Smith, 1996), the contribution of the secretary to the work of the governing body, the potential for the secretary to have to address conflicts of interest in undertaking the role and their influence in managing the relationship between the board and the executive were all noted, but not taken any further. As a chartered secretary working in the field of higher education governance since the mid-1980s, it was apparent that the changes in the sector’s approach to governance, noted by van der Wende, had been profound.

More recently, the case has been made that the secretary’s role had moved from a passive stewardship model of a behind-the scenes co-coordinator of governance activities, to the more proactive stance of amanager of what Shattock (2006) called the ‘governance business’ of the higher education institution. As evidence of this shift, Shattock noted (ibid, p.23) that the CUC Guide now devoted, ‘more space to describing the role of the secretary….than to that of the….head of institution’ and placed the secretary as, ‘the second key figure in governance arrangements’ (ibid, p.21), behind the head of institution and somewhat ahead of the chair. The increased awareness of the role seemed to be a reflection of the codification of the secretary’s responsibilities, and, in turn, the growth of those responsibilities because of the greater codification of other aspects of governance, such as the increased emphasis placed on monitoring governing body effectiveness (CUC, 2000; see also, Baird, 2007) or the evaluation and monitoring of institutional performance (CUC, 2006). But role awareness, whilst important, needed to be seen in tandem with the influence displayed by the secretary in the conduct of governance business, to obtain a rounded picture of the contribution made by the secretary to institutional governance.

Furthermore, it seemed clear that influential secretaries had been in place long before the advent of modern governance arrangements. This was not a new phenomenon, but had simply not been picked up because of the focus placed on the chair and head of institution in research on higher education governance. In my experience the secretary had been, for the most part, a ‘backstage’ (Mangham and Overington, 1987; Pye, 2002), but active participant in higher education governance, able to contribute from behind the scenes, and sometimes in governing body meetings, without formally being a member of the governing body, and use formal and informal mechanisms to exert influence in close working relationships with the head of institution and the chair. The work by Bargh et al. (1996) had previously identified some of the contributions made by key individuals, and the governing body itself, in decision-making and the setting of institutional strategy. Their study revealed, however, the difficulties experienced by university staff in understanding the role of senior managers in decision-making processes (p.118) and the problems some governors had in being able to determine how far they were being led by the executive (p.127). In one instance, it was noted that, ‘directorate reports to governors were structured with firm recommendations, as opposed to the presentation of a choice between several options and their subsequent implications’ (p.128).

Bargh et al. concluded that in the institutions they had studied, the control held by the executive over agendas and strategy initiation remained ‘substantially intact’ (p.135) and the impact of governors on decision-making could be limited, unless enacted by way of developing close interpersonal relationships with the executive and helping influence their policy 13 proposals. Given the central position of the secretary in agenda setting, in the management of the work of the governing body, and, often, as a member of the institution’s executive, it seemed important to try to shed light on this role to see whether emerging claims about its importance could, or could not, be substantiated. But a cautionary note emerged during the research. In a post-interview discussion with a governing body secretary it was suggested that I should not make too much of the influence of the secretary because of the negative way in which a more ‘managed’ and ‘corporate’ approach to modern university governance might be viewed by the wider HE community.These elements have combined together to heighten the rivalry between business organizations. Each wants to excel at the expense of its problems which have to be financed by fever and better staff within the organizations concerned. A careful selection process is possible for each vacancy advertised; there is a wealth of suitable applicant.

The secretary, like the chameleon has to adapt to her surroundings, she has to master new skills such as operating word processors and computers. Telex and electronic mall have becomes part of everyday life for her and the business letter does not occupy as much of her days as it used to be in the past. The secretary today is finding less of her time being spent behind the typewriter and more time being spent attending to other aspects of her work.This history of Osun State Polytechnic, Iree dated back to 1981 when the campus was one of the four satellite campuses of the polytechnic, Ibadan Following the creation of Osun State in August 1991, it became necessary for the new state to have her own Polytechnic. Government therefore decided to establish Osun State Polytechnic, Iree in the state to cater for the educational needs of the citizens.

The bill establishing Osun State Polytechnic, Iree was assented to by the first Executive Governor of Osun State, AlhajiIsiaka Adetunji Adeleke on 12th October, 1992. by that act of Government, Osun State Polytechnic, Iree became a successor to the Iree satellite erstwhile campus of the Polytechnic, Ibadan. Similarly Osun State College of Technology Esa-Oke was established as a successor to the Esa-Oke satellite campus.

The state had a mission for the institutions. The mission was to rationalized the courses between the two sister institutions with orientation towards commerce. Science and Technology at Iree while Esa-Oke was marked for Engineering and Environmental Studies.

However, in view of the advice given by the NBTE that Polytechnic should offer core courses in Engineering, the vision is being revised along that line, plans are therefore in the pipe-line to introduce engineering and environmental studies, at Ireeviz: – Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering.

The institution has an imposing library block which serves the academic interest of both staff and students. It keep a fairly sizable number of books for it’s and reading public. Plans are underway to increase its book stock and services particularly in the areas of provision of photocopy services, photographic services and audio visuals.

The institution also has a health centre where staff and students receive medical care. However, serious cases are referred to hospitals at Iree, Ikirun and Osogbo. The works and the services department located near the institutional structure and equipment and provide municipal services e.g. water, electricity etc to staff and students.

With this humble and beginning, management will appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of all staff, students, and the general public at large to an orderly and progressive of development of this young institution.

The environment provides adequate challenges to all concerned and it is our hope that we would all been working together for cooperation, understanding to build osun State Polytechnic, Iree into enviable edifice.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The problem of the study is to determine:

  1. The promotion prospects of the secretary in a public establishment.
  2. The training prospects of the secretary in a public establishment.
  3. The occupational mobility prospects of the secretary in a public establishment.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. What are the promotion prospects of the secretary of public establishments?
  2. What are the training prospects of the secretary in a public establishment?
  3. What are the occupational mobility prospects of the secretary in a public establishment?

1.4 Research Hypotheses

To aid the completion of the study, the following hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;

  1. H0: there is no prospect of occupational mobility for confidential secretary in public establishment
    H1: there is a prospect of occupational mobility for confidential secretary in public establishment.
  2. H02: there is no training prospects of the secretary in a public establishment
    H2: there is training prospects of the secretary in a public establishment

1.3 Purpose of the Study

In many of our national Institutes of learning today there are few candidates applying for the secretariat studies. Those who are eventually admitted for the course are mostly faced with a lot of problems before they can become secretariat. It is the purpose of this study however to find out whether the course provides job satisfactions in term of salary, promotion, frige benefits. The study plans to find out what secretarial practice include in Nigeria offices.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study will discuss extensively why few candidates apply for secretarial studies. It will also reveal the job opportunities for secretaries in public establishment. However, the coverage of the topic will be incomplete if a look is not made into the social psychological, educational and economical importance of the topic in chapter two of the project.

1.5 Delimitation of the Study

This research work titled “career prospects of a confidential secretaries in public establishments Osun State Polytechnic, Iree as its case study. This establishment was selected on such a way that it will represent the various type of institution involved in training and employing qualified secretaries.

1.6 Limitation of the Study

The factors that militate against this study is due to lack of co-operation on the part of some secretarial staff who were visited. Also, there are limited literature materials available for the research work

1.7 Operational Definition of Terms


In other situations a secretary is an officer of a society or organization who deals with correspondence, admits new members, and organizes official meetings and events.

Confidential Secretary

Confidential Secretaries provide administrative and clerical support to the executives of a corporation. Their duties include following dictated instructions, taking minutes, transcribing documents, preparing confidential reports, writing letters, taking phone calls, and making travel arrangements


A career is an individual’s metaphorical “journey” through learning, work and other aspects of life. There are a number of ways to define career and the term is used in a variety of ways

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  1. Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  2. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  3. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  4. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  5. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the career prospect of confidential secretary in public establishment.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of secretaries in public establishment.

5.2 Summary

Secretary is one single employee of any organization that is most important and needed. No matter the innovation or invention brought about by the computer, the presence of the secretary (a human being) is needed for the computer to function. The secretary is a subordinate and an assistant that is needed by the chief executive for making telephone calls and receiving telephone calls. He is the only person trained in the efficient and the effective management of information, office correspondence and human resource for the benefit of the organization and in attaining the organization’s objectives. The secretary will always be required in the office. Although they may not be many as it used to be, they are still needed and useful. One thing the secretary needs in order to keep his job is retraining, which can be done by attending classes or participating in online education for more knowledge on how to operate new office technology such as internet and teleconferencing computer facilities. As long asthe secretary keeps abreast of challenges in modern technologies he will not be redundant or found wanting and he will always be relevant in today’s modern office. The importance and indispensability of the secretary in any organization cannot be overstressed. We now have automated offices or what some people call “paperless” offices. These offices use modern machines and methods in order to save such resources as time, effort and money.

5.3 Conclusion

The first theme concerned the technical role played by the secretary, which can encompass a wide range of legal, procedural or constitutional issues. It was found that the majority of secretaries do not hold professional qualifications in these areas. The professional administrator/manager does not seem to be as prevalent in governance as in other areas of university administration (Whitchurch, 2006), such as the management of estates or human resources functions, possibly because, until recently, governance has often played a secondary role to other duties held by the person responsible for the work of the governing body. But does this matter? Whilst there are early signs that the position could be changing with the introduction of specialist governance units, there are also concerns about the potential loss of the co-ordinating role of the senior-most administrator (Holmes, 2006) who, in most cases, acted as secretary to the governing body. A number of interviewees noted that an ability to deal sensitively with a wide range of interpersonal and political issues was probably of greater importance than a professional qualification. It seems that professional knowledge is only one element of the skills set required for the role to be undertaken successfully.

5.4 Recommendation

The following recommendations were made based on the findings of the study and the implications:

  1. The administrator in public establishments should endeavour to afford their executive secretaries in-service training opportunities through which they could be retrained in emergent innovations and techniques in the world of work.
  2. The administrators in those pubic establishments should endeavour to properly organize and coordinate the policy (in-service training) as to create enabling environment for executive secretaries to update their knowledge and skills in this dispensation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
  3. The government who owned, managed and controlled those public establishments should be ready to sponsor the executive secretaries to attend both local and national conferences, workshops seminars and refresher courses in Universities, Colleges of Education and Polytechnics

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