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The use & management of performance evaluation in some British universities

Lafeuillee, Cosmos A.; (2003) The use & management of performance evaluation in some British universities. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL Institute of Education. Green open access

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Abstract

The higher education sector is in the throes of transformation and increasing diversity between and within its institutions. Evaluation, assessments, widening access, falling investments in real terms combine to pose major challenges. But even more fundamentally, universities have witnessed growing tendencies by the State to subject them to evaluative mechanisms. Performance evaluation and managerial tools have been introduced to determine how well universities are meeting their targets. Having regard to the presence of these dynamics, universities have had to reorientate, respond and to develop strategies to tackle some of these major issues. This thesis reports on increasing use of business principles and managerial ism, and of government steering strategies and the indicators they use. It asks whether their use has brought benefits to the university sector. The study uses interviews with senior managers and academics to explore the practices and the State involvement in them, analyzes the relevant literature, and the issues they raise for governments, managers, academics in the context of the university's inherent social, economic and public accountabilities. With calls for greater openness and transparency, and intensifying competition the university sector is forced to deal with the emergence of 'multiple audiences' by providing quantitative information and engaging in increasing public relations exercises. Thus teaching and research have been subjected to scrutiny by national agen~ies as part of the government's drive to raise quality and standards. The media's interest in performance evaluation has grown intensely and so has that of the wider public. All of these have generated a wide range of performance indicators and evaluation procedures. The study identifies major related themes: the development of a 'parallel performance evaluation system'; a changing attitude towards HEFCE; a fragmented national system of evaluation; quantitative indicators used for numerous comparisons including marketing, student recruitment; financial planning; assessments and to identify failing departments. The majority of 'informants' agreed that performance evaluation and managerial tools are likely to be a permanent feature of the higher education scene. There is a feeling that the demands made are 'excessive', and of 'intrusion' by external agencies. It reflects a situation where universities feel that they have lost both academic and institutional autonomy. In consequence a growing culture of 'indifference', 'scepticism', and 'uncertainty' seems to be emerging. The current emphasis on performance evaluation is posing another management problem: how best to manage the vast amounts of information generated by the system. Universities must find fresh ways to manage a diverse sector. The State's interest is in results. Failure to meet targets can be construed as falling standards. It is the product, and not often the process of higher education that legitimates or delegitimates the actor. Performance evaluation must give legitimacy to the development of the product.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The use & management of performance evaluation in some British universities
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by the British Library's EThOS service.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10020440
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