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The bureaucratic distortion of academic work: a transdisciplinary analysis of the UK Research Excellence Framework in the age of neoliberalism

O'Regan, JP; Gray, J; (2018) The bureaucratic distortion of academic work: a transdisciplinary analysis of the UK Research Excellence Framework in the age of neoliberalism. Language and Intercultural Communication , 18 (5) pp. 533-548. 10.1080/14708477.2018.1501847. Green open access

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Abstract

In the years since the second Thatcher government (1983-87), and continuing until the present, universities in the UK have been subjected to a series of neoliberal reforms which have had a deleterious effect on academics’ working conditions and on the kind of research they are required to produce. 1986 saw the introduction of regular sector wide audits of research and scholarly activity designed to make academics more ‘productive’ and the institutions in which they worked more ‘competitive’. This article takes as the object of its investigation the Research Excellence Framework (REF), the most recent iteration of the UK government sponsored assessment exercise. It adopts a transdisciplinary approach which draws on political economy, social theory and critical discourse analysis. The analysis exposes the ways in which the Research Excellence Framework constructs an illusion of intellectual excellence and innovation whose true purpose is the neutralization of the university as a centre of independent knowledge creation and learning, and hence as a potential locus of intellectual opposition to the neoliberal hegemony. The article concludes by calling on academics to refuse the narrow model of research valorized by the REF and to reclaim the idea of the university as a public good.

Type: Article
Title: The bureaucratic distortion of academic work: a transdisciplinary analysis of the UK Research Excellence Framework in the age of neoliberalism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/14708477.2018.1501847
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14708477.2018.1501847
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Neoliberalism, Education, Critical Discourse Analysis, Critical Realism, Semiosis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10054800
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