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Imbalancing the academy: the impact of research quality assessment

Imbalancing the academy: the impact of research quality assessment

McNay, Ian ORCID: 0000-0002-6096-4640 (2016) Imbalancing the academy: the impact of research quality assessment. Sociologia Italiana - AIS Journal of Sociology (8):7. pp. 119-150. ISSN 2281-2652 (doi:

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The UK exercises in research quality assessment since 1986 have had ill-defined objectives. For the first exercises, the results were simply 'to inform funding', seeking value for money in an evaluative, regulatory state. That aim remained, almost word for word, until the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014, when there was an additional articulated intent 'to change behaviour'. There had already been much changed behaviour over the years, perhaps unintended,apparently unexpected,as staff adapted their responses to changing 'rules of the game' and the meaning they attributed to these. This article outlines the changing mechanics of successive exercises - the process means toil-defined policy ends, and analyses the impact of design features which have affected the staff, and distorted institutional strategies of both policy development and control of delivery. The cumulative effect is to imbalance the system to favour a small elite, leading to isomorphism and funding concentrated to an extent that risks loss of diversity and stifling of challenges to established ideas, failing to recognise a variety of excellences.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This was commissioned as part of a debate in Italy on RQA, where the government had said it wished to benefit from learning lessons from the UK experience.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Performance management; Diversity; Ends and means; Design defects; Unexpected consequences
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Education (EDU)
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Institute for Lifecourse Development > Centre for Professional Workforce Development
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Last Modified: 18 Nov 2021 23:57

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