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Title: Reform and governance in higher education
Contributor(s): Scott, Alan  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2010
DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8676.2009.00091.x
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Abstract: The last quarter of a century has seen waves of reform in higher education (HE) around the globe. No less striking are the similarities in terms of language, aims and instruments across these reforms. A relatively independent - institutionally 'pillarized' - and simple organization with a short list of tasks (teaching and research) and occasionally a good wine cellar was to be turned into a multi-tasking engine of economic growth within the 'knowledge economy': relevant, engaged, internationally competitive, excellent, entrepreneurial. In a mood that occasionally approached what Albert Hirschman (1991) has dubbed 'fracasomania' (failure complex) - the belief that the existing system has so irredeemably failed that only its wholesale restructuring can bring about improvement - the old structures, designed to reproduce scholarly traditions and train elites, were no longer thought fit for purpose; no longer up to the new challenges and opportunities. Nor were they providing value for taxpayers' money. The reform impulse of policy makers and politicians was given an intellectual frame and programme by ideas emerging from the universities themselves, and specifically from the social sciences, notably new public management (NPM). Like other public service providers, universities were to be simultaneously exposed to market discipline and subject to stricter and more transparent systems of accountability and audit (Strathern 2000). These new instruments of control were, paradoxically, introduced in the name of 'autonomy' (Olsen 2009). Universities were to be freed from the direct control of the state in return for which they were to increase efficiency and demonstrate improvement in audits of teaching quality and research output and impact. To further facilitate this, the office of the VC/Rector/President was to be remodelled in the image of the CEO, competition between universities was to be encouraged and league tables were to become powerful instruments for concentrating the minds of academics and university managers alike (see Sauder and Espeland 2009). Within the universities themselves, these developments were frequently accompanied by a Greek chorus in which any change was denounced as a threat both to genuine autonomy (coded as 'academic freedom') and the traditional practices necessary for maintaining, again genuine, standards.
Publication Type: Review
Source of Publication: Social Anthropology, 18(1), p. 83-89
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Place of Publication: Oxford, United Kingdom
ISSN: 0964-0282
Field of Research (FOR): 160809 Sociology of Education
130103 Higher Education
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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