Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

A number of interesting articles on current conditions in the university have been published. To keep a record of these and to disseminate them to others I will be posting the titles and abstracts on this blog.

Academic freedom is currently under threat – not just in the countries one would expect it to be but also in the so-called ‘free Western world’. The threats don’t come from traditional repressive political ideologies but are generated in the name of efficiency and cost savings and utilitarian ideas of direct university industry links and ‘impact’.

I post anything that has Foucault content on my Foucault News blog, but will post items without Foucault content on this blog.

Ann Martin-Sardesai, Helen Irvine, Stuart Tooley & James Guthrie, Government research evaluations and academic freedom: a UK and Australian comparison, Higher Education Research & Development, 2016

Performance management systems have been an inevitable consequence of the development of government research evaluations (GREs) of university research, and have also inevitably affected the working life of academics. The aim of this paper is to track the development of GREs over the past 25 years, by critically evaluating their adoption in the UK and Australian higher education sector and their contribution to the commodification of academic labour, and to highlight the resultant tensions between GREs and academic freedom. The paper employs a literature-based analysis, relying on publicly available policy documents and academic studies over the period 1985–2010. GREs are a global phenomenon emanating from new public management reforms and while assessments of university research have been welcomed, they have attracted critique based on their design, the manner in which they have been applied, and the unintended consequences of their implementation on academic freedom in particular. Consistent with international research on the impact of GREs, Australian research assessments appear to be undoing the academic freedom that is central to successful research. Further empirical research on the impact of GREs on academics is urgently needed.

KEYWORDS: Academic freedom, academics, Australian higher education sector, excellence in research for Australia, government research evaluation, research excellence framework,

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