I’ve read this study on academics vs. administrators in several places. The short version is that more than 70% of UK universities have more staff than profs.
No one is highlighting the fact that the most highly-ranked universities (Oxbridge, UCL) are on the list of lowest faculty/staff ratios.
The inference no one’s making: these old grande dames of the university scene still have a collegial governance structure in which professors, rather than staff, (a) make the most important decisions, and (b) do the majority of ‘soft’ work (such as advising).
Why does this matter? Well, the benefits to having professionals advise on curricular choices seems fairly obvious — especially when the alternative is a recent (or not-so-recent) graduate with no more qualifications than a degree in some subject. I would also argue that while staff are needed to handle some issues (for example, mental and physical health should not be entrusted to untrained academics!), other tasks that are often delegated to staff could easily be performed by professors and/or advanced students: writing or math tutoring, for example.
While the follow-up piece rightly points out that professors and staff don’t hate each other, the fact remains that universities need to choose their investments. Staff, especially staff who don’t have terminal degrees, will never be able to expand to research. Professors can easily contract to take on staff duties. And, in the increasingly publish-or-perish atmosphere of the REF, maybe it would be better for UK university heads to take a long, slow breath: not everyone can be a research powerhouse! Instead, try to maximize your faculty in different ways by actually rewarding research, teaching, AND service.