Publish and Flourish, or Perish: RAE, ERA, RQF, and Other Acronyms for Infinite Human Resourcefulness




Research Assessment Exercise, neoliberalism, research, performance management

How to Cite

Redden, G. (2008). Publish and Flourish, or Perish: RAE, ERA, RQF, and Other Acronyms for Infinite Human Resourcefulness. M/C Journal, 11(4).
Vol. 11 No. 4 (2008): publish
Published 2008-07-01

Recently, while reading Australian Cultural Studies: A Reader, I was struck by just how long neoliberalism has been considered a defining feature of our times. Frow and Morris open their introduction with a meditation on a few words uttered by Rupert Murdoch in 1990. In response to a journalist’s question about how to ‘save the Australian economy,’ Murdoch replied, “Oh, you know, change the culture” (vii). Frow and Morris take this sentiment to be indicative of “a neo-liberal rhetoric now broadly shared” among the governing classes, one that seeks to modify behaviour across social fields so as to realise the imperative that “fewer workers must produce more for less” (viii).

This paper concerns one manifestation of neoliberal reformism: the pseudomarketisation of state-managed higher education through technologies of performance evaluation, primarily those used to measure and fund research quality.

With regard to the British and Australian sectors, it appears we have arrived at a point in which existing research performance mechanisms are under review with new systems virtually certain, but still under construction. In the UK, the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise)—which determines levels of research capacity funding mainly on the basis of peer review of the quality of research publications—is in its last round. In Australia the existing ‘quantum’ of research activity (formally, the Institutional Grants Scheme or IGS) allocates research funding to universities in proportion to the numbers of recognised publications they produce, research student numbers and the value of grants they win. It is likewise on borrowed time, being originally due for replacement by the RQF (Research Quality Framework, modelled on the British RAE) this year. However, the new government has postponed it indefinitely, pursuing instead the major Bradley Committee review of higher education, and the development of a new quality framework, the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia), which will put more weight on ranking of publication outlets by ‘quality’.

The results of these processes of review in Australia may define the nature of the academic enterprise for many years to come. Research quality mechanisms are methods for disciplining labour that affect behaviour from the micro level of individual researchers, up to the sector-wide patterns of production they foster. What is at stake is not just the nature of the academic vocation and the conditions under which academics work, but also the rationale of the modern university, or differing rationales of differing universities: ‘diversity of mission’, or the capacities of institutions to undertake research and teaching are an explicit dimension of the Bradley review. In light of cautionary tales derived from the British RAE my aim here is to highlight how neoliberal research quality frameworks can threaten inclusive, social democratic understandings of higher education (of the kind often associated with cultural studies). I will also make the contentious claim that in a world where such frameworks are inevitable, the current Australian system is about as good as it gets.


Getting things to work

Governmentality theorists, influenced by Foucault’s later work on the ‘conduct of conduct’ (220–221), have identified contemporary ‘advanced liberal’ discourses that depict citizens as self-determining agents and encourage them to use their freedoms to act in ways that bolster the privatisation of responsibility. The roll back of the welfare state—the so-called bludger culture of dependence that Frow and Morris saw as one target of neoliberalism—is one outcome. Another, as writers including Rose and du Gay have shown, is the changes in human resource management which lead to workers being viewed more like entrepreneurs than ‘organisation men’ with stable roles and fortunes. The worker becomes someone tasked with realising organisational goals through using their own initiative, tested in this through performance appraisal mechanisms, and held responsible for outcomes. This is a culture of continuous audit by the organisation and self-management by the subject, and is based on the supposition that there is always room for improvement. Or, to put this differently, there is a management demand for the ‘infinite resourcefulness’ of workers in processes of adding value (Costea et al. 250).

Higher education is a distinctive sector in which the traditional model of academic work is that of a vocation undertaken more for the inherent joys of discovery and circulation of ideas than for extrinsic rewards. Andrew Ross has observed how this romantic legacy of working with the gift of knowledge underpins a longstanding tendency for academics qua labourers to gift production to their employers in self-directed unpaid overtime. When you love what you do it can merge with available leisure time. But universities are also becoming corporatised. This involves greater managerial intervention over what academics do with their time. For instance, academic activities are becoming increasingly measured for their instrumental value to the ‘knowledge economy’ and its need for innovation and educated workers (Rutherford). Corporatisation also increasingly opens up academic practice to managerial calculations of the value for money of operations (aka productivity, aka workers producing more outputs relative to inputs). Ross observes how the tradition of gifted labour is being converted into discounted production as paymasters devise ways to enforce unpaid academic work time via employment conditions. The increased casualisation of academic work since the 1980s is one manifestation. It most often reduces the pecuniary reward for teaching while relying on the worker’s ‘self-managed’ cultivation of expert knowledge altogether outside of the paid time.

The corporate imperative to enhance value for money is also applied to research, and in some respects it is engendered by government policy. Reforms in the Australian sector in the 1980s (the so-called Dawkins reforms) led to a system in which government sponsored research by paying universities for their outputs. In recounting the development of cultural studies at the University of Melbourne, Simon During explains that “by the late 1990s, conditions had changed. New hyper-Benthamite management techniques, new funding models and social objectives, geared toward boosting national economic productivity, governed the Australian university system” (275). He goes on: “The budget I managed was determined by a formula which allocated money according to performance quantified across a number of variables. Each student, each text written by faculty, each PhD completion, each research dollar won had a money value, so that, at least in theory, it was possible to compute exactly how much each academic earned and to assess whether they were departmental profit centers” (275).

These then are the new realities eventuating from the ingression of neoliberal work culture into the academy. Activities and outputs are placed under close scrutiny, and the allocation of resources follows in line. In matters of research, the old preparedness to gift time to one’s employer has been harnessed and transformed into generalised requirements for workers to do more, and along certain lines, in order to win resources continually. Attending the schemes that operationalise this modus operandi, there is a supposition that, ‘like in a market’ there is a kind of natural meritocratic justice (aka efficiency) in the allocation of resources to those who can be seen to do something to deserve them. The sector is broken down into individual entities: universities, faculties, departments, individuals that are measured and managed for performance, with the overall output of the sector being the aggregate.


No choice but rationally to choose

It was not ever thus. The ideas behind the proliferation of such mechanisms across the public sector had to be first invented. In the 1970s and 1980s, while the ideas of free-market economists such as Milton Friedman led to macroeconomic reforms now associated with globalisation, other economists and mathematicians were busy working out how to apply rational-choice models, based on the inherently self-interested figure of homo econimus, to a wide range of fields of human endeavour. The ‘rational’ choice in this view is, of course, the self-interested one, as calculable through analysis of the benefits to the self versus the costs, of any course of action. Microeconomists, such as game theorist Gary Becker, sought to develop more sophisticated models of cost-benefit analysis that could be applied to understanding people’s tendencies to do anything (see Harford for an account).

This kind of thinking entered into public sector management in the guise of public choice theory. The core belief of this approach is that public officers who are left to their own devices in civil bureaucracies will never perform optimally in the delivery of whichever public good they are supposed to deliver. In her insider’s account of the influence of economic rationalism in governmental circles in Canberra, Lindy Edwards cites the public choice view that it is the self-interested behaviour of bureaucrats that leads to such putative ‘government failure’ (101). It is thought that in conventional bureaucracies, those who run them can too easily fulfil their sectional ‘producer interest’ of adopting an easy life for themselves because of the lack of market pressures for them to really create an adequate good and exchange it for something else they want. In this view, the key to improving public sector performance is to introduce market forces in order to bring extrinsic motivating factors to bear upon public sector workers: to make high performance the rational choice.

This has led to ‘the New Public Administration’. Government is redefined as a buyer of the services it requires from the public sector rather than the centre of operational control and responsibility. This allows for various ways of making the relationships between governments, civil servants and service users more like business ones. According to Kaul, some of the key features are that policy formation is transferred away from the public services themselves (including government ministries) to separate executives that are responsible for setting standards, goals and service agreements that effectively act as contracts with the public sector organisations. This distinction makes ‘delivery’ the main autonomous responsibility of the latter, while the former decides upon the mechanisms through which delivery will be measured (performance targets) and ways that performance levels of particular agencies will be variously rewarded or punished. These include payment-by-results at organisational levels, and also performance-related pay for staff. Thus government-as-buyer-of-services is, in theory, able to benefit from forces of competition it unleashes within and between organisations, which scramble to deliver up to the mark.


Sweating your assets, UK-style

In discussing New Labour’s continuation of Thatcher’s legacy, Stuart Hall notes how the new managerialism derived from public choice is apparently neutral, but really “the vehicle by means of which neo-liberal ideas actually inform institutional practices.” It is part of a broader diffusion of neoliberal sensibilities through the population creating a new habitus, whereby citizens at any given site become self-managers in processes structured through market logic. In incentivising performance, and enjoining civil servants to act and feel like entrepreneurs “it replaces professional judgement and control by the wholesale importation of micro-management practices of audit, inspection, monitoring, efficiency and value-for money, despite the fact that neither their public role nor their public interest objectives can be adequately re-framed in this way” (Hall).

It should come as little surprise that public choice was operationalised first under Thatcher—Reagan, after all, had no national healthcare or higher education systems to subject to it. Along with the first steps taken towards managing the National Health Service through performance criteria, the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise was one of the earliest examples, in the 1980s. It promised that research capacity funding would be distributed to institutions on merit. As well as reviewing publications in their area, RAE subject panels consider circumstantial factors such as ‘research environment’ and ‘esteem indicators’. The results are overall quality profiles for research achievements in given subject areas, with the original scale running from 1 (no effective research culture) to 5* (international excellence). Funding levels are then determined by the ratings in proportion to numbers of staff identified as research active. Each institution’s overall research capacity income is an aggregate of its RAE earnings in the subject areas it had submitted for consideration.

Let us first of all concede that the RAE has had a major impact on British research, and there is no doubt that it ‘worked’ in the sense that it did boost research performance in the sector. Above all, by dint of the differential funding formula applied to the rating scale, it has succeeded in concentrating funds at the top, helping a small group of institutions in South-East England to maintain their world-class reputations amid a broader decline in per capita funding to universities. However, rather being taken as an unproblematic boosting of the ‘public good’, this success has to be understood as something relative to the terms in which the system was configured.

Those terms of success are narrow, and as with many public sector management schemes, they take no account of the many negative, unintended consequences of the behavioural change that it causes. The realisation that the downsides outweigh the upsides by this point in time is what has convinced the British government, in the very language that it uses in such matters, that it should be discontinued: the costs are greater than the benefits.

There is not space here to elaborate on all of these costs. But from the point of view of someone who lived under the thrall of the RAE, and escaped, they include:


  • Neglect of teaching. In-class contact hours were cut and class sizes increased to free up lecturers’ time for research, or contact hours were casualised, or ‘dumped’ on continuing lecturers whose research was deemed unlikely to earn RAE money.
  • The RAE took massive amounts of academics’ time to administer. Time used for micromanagement and review was itself non-productive and could have been spent on research.
  • Support for research within institutions became increasingly selective, aimed at researchers and projects most likely to yield income. This is de facto infringement of academic freedom, as earning power becomes the rationale for the good of research, and it also damages staff morale.
  • The transfer market in academics. The movement of personnel who were already working well in situ (the attraction for the headhunters) comes with various costs not related to any additional yield: the on-costs of recruitment and relocation, the higher salaries required to lure the personnel, investment in facilities and equipment required, the costs to the former institution as research teams/strengths they cultivated disintegrated.
  • Ignoring quality that is not produced in large quantities. The RAE defines a returnable researcher as someone who publishes at least four peer-reviewed works in a seven-year cycle. Regardless of the quality of their work, the reasons for their modest productivity, or their potential, someone who publishes less falls below the cut-off, and is prone to be ‘managed out’ of their research career. By his logic, John Rawls, would have become a teaching grunt had he been working in the UK, circa 2000.
  • The large amounts of unpaid overtime worked by researchers attempting to achieve their quality output goals, and the associated stress. The RAE exploits the tradition of voluntarily gifted labour in academic work (Ross). The stress is derived from the added do or die pressure that has been applied to the gifting of ‘as much labour is required’ to the employer by the academic.


It is not that universities should not change with society, nor that academics should not be accountable for the public good they deliver. Rather, the problem is in the hijacking of change, accountability and value for money by those who apply narrow economistic models of human behaviour to complex organisational operations, and, to return to Frow and Morris’s point, do so with the ultimate aim of getting workers to produce more for less, without much care for the real costs of such performance improvement.

The RAE is predicated upon what is known in the management trade as ‘sweating your assets’, that is squeezing as much value as possible out of your assets (including workers) while minimising financial inputs (direct costs). This is a free market logic of simple exploitation. It is what gang masters do when they exploit captive labourers’ dependence upon them with low wages. It is what neoliberal governments too often do when they allocate resources in the public sector through simplistic payment-by-results schemes.

The quid pro quo between universities and the British Government really broke down with the betrayal experienced in the 2001 round. The 2001 exercise saw improvements across the board. In particular, unprecedented numbers of 5* ratings were apportioned. However, the reality behind the mechanism was soon apparent: the RAE is effectively a zero-sum game. Rather than rewarding the improved departments with funding levels equivalent to those enjoyed in the previous round, units of resource applied to each rating were reduced. Eventually the government withdrew funding of 3a and 4 rated departments altogether, ensuring that new universities that had developed notable research cultures had the rug pulled from beneath them, and that old universities would close many of the departments that did not earn them enough (as in the Birmingham case). The pot didn’t increase with aggregate performance, but was spread more thinly. The only exception was at the top end. A new 6* super elite of ‘world leading’ departments was hurriedly created to thin out the numbers that attracted top dollar. Everyone else had produced considerably more for less.

In a real market the value of such enhancement of productivity is ultimately measured by the bottom line. By definition, it matters not one jot to the recipient of a profit what costs have been incurred a long the way. However, the RAE is a proxy market, a form of mimicry that is supposed the deliver a public good by aping market instrumentalism. Instead, it has unleashed a whole load of distortions into extant processes, as academic managers had to try and master strategic management amid multiple forces they could hardly predict and control (not the least of which is the withholding of the prices the government puts on RAE ratings). Only a delusional would pretend that performance improvements in the areas measured came out of the ‘infinite resourcefulness’ of staff to deliver. Other important things have had to give: teaching, non-RAE-like research (public intellectualism, editing, teaching-oriented research, etc) and the private time of workers. But this is not all. Research output relative to the government’s research capacity budget is not even the true measure of value for money. Research is cross-subsidised from other budgets as cuts are made in other operational areas and the pay costs of senior academics, managers, and research administrators rise.

In order to conform to the logic of investing more in those assets they think have the best chance of earning the most income, managers within organisational units have had to make decisions about whose research is worth supporting for financial not intellectual reasons. So it is that a mechanism designed to squeeze maximum performance out of ‘human capital' works in exclusionary ways. It makes the academic world into a short-termist one of simplistic performance cut-off points which determine what kind of work academics can do, the support they get and the kinds of future careers they can have, regardless of their potential, and regardless of their right to undertake their vocation.

While this logic is used to divide the haves from the have-nots within units, it also gets applied to units themselves. For the cultural studies community, one of the most perverse outcomes of RAE-related managerialism was the closing down of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. The Centre’s great sin was achieving a 3a RAE rating in 2001 (=good, fourth on the scale of quality where the seventh is top). While, as Ann Gray notes, the Centre continued to make an important contribution to the field of cultural studies, Birmingham University designated any unit receiving under a 4 rating to be underperforming and thus not worthy of investment. In one fell swoop, everything the Centre had achieved (including much of value that was not ‘RAE-like’) was swept away. And, it is somewhat ironic that the proximate cause of the period of lower research productivity that had led to the ‘3a’ was that management had, a few years before the RAE audit, ordered the Centre staff to develop an undergraduate degree for the first time, thus diverting their time away from research. This kind of short-sighted distortion is a sad inevitability when institutions are forced to prioritise while scrambling for resources.


The quantum effect

When I was following the debate about the RQF in Australia from the UK a few years ago, having experienced both the Australian system and the RAE, I wrote to several colleagues in Australia warning them of the psychic costs of the RAE on staff, and how it is divisive, unfair, and detrimental to other academic activities while appearing a transparent mechanism that can lift all boats. I might have missed it, but, while there were technical and operational objections, I didn’t get the impression that many academics saw it as a neoliberal ruse to squeeze extra out of workers, while rewarding only a ‘world class’ research elite with any significant level of resources.

The RQF has now been cancelled (possibly only deferred while the new government takes views), but a new performance management and funding system for research is in the offing to replace the much maligned ‘quantum’ (IGS). The latter is the method of calculating institutional research grants by a mixture of research income won (60%), research student load (30%) and academic publications (10%), as referred to by During above in less than flattering terms. Although it is a mechanism of competitive, selective funding, the quantum is essentially a means of indexing funding to levels of research activity, rather than quality of research outputs. In an annual round, any unit of activity that has passed a basic threshold of academic peer-review (winning any grant, publishing any article) receives funding. It does not infringe on academics’ autonomy to decide the form or best publication venue for their work, nor does it require a researcher to achieve a certain level of productivity before their work is credited.

A critique of the quantum is that it just rewards the cranking out of product regardless of quality. This is the view that encouraged Canberra to develop the RAE-clone, the RQF. A series of studies based on analysis of Australian research output was undertaken under the auspices of the Research Evaluation and Policy Project at the Australian National University. They contributed to the view that the quantum is detrimental to Australia’s research performance so far as quality is concerned. In one such paper, Linda Butler estimated the quality of Australian research publications by ascertaining the impact ratings of the journals in which they were published using Science Citation Index data. She argued that the introduction of the Research Quantum measures in the mid-1990s correlated with a discernable trend in Australian academic publications:

The reaction of Australians to these signals is entirely predictable—their publication output has increased dramatically in the last decade. But as quality is paid scant regard in the measures, there is little incentive to strive for the top journals, and this paper shows that the biggest increase has been in those journals at the lower end of the impact scale (39).

It would appear to me that Butler is drawing a misleading conclusion from her analysis. In fact, when other factors are excluded, it is evident from her own data that the quantum did actually lead to an impressive increase in research at the top end of the impact scale, as well as the middle and lower end. It did indeed lift all boats. Yet a ‘dramatic’ increase in Australia’s research productivity at all levels was explained away as failure because the lower end grew faster than the upper. It seems logical to deduce that the publication element of the quantum incentivised all researchers to publish, but that, in the same way that few students gain high distinctions relative to those who receive other commendable grades, the majority of researchers placed their extra publications in ‘ordinary’ journals rather than the most prestigious. Indeed, there are only so many rooms at the inn: how many articles can top journals publish? In essence, Butler eschews the significance of the sector-wide hard graft and achievement, preferring to adopt a public-choice hermeneutic of suspicion that the rank and file of researchers have taken the easy route and published outside of Nature en masse. Another interpretation is that they all found suitable niches for their work in the broad ecology of academic publishing.

Is there really a crisis of quality in Australian research? There is other indicative evidence from international comparisons that would need explaining away to support this view. While all international rankings of universities should be taken with a very big pinch of salt (as they can only deal in debateable proxies for quality that have been given debateable weight), each at least judges universities by a single set of criteria. The Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings heavily depend on international peer review across subjects in comparison with main rival the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Rankings of World Universities, which fetishises the incidence of elite scientific achievement at universities (by counting Nobel prizes/Fields medals, publications in Science and Nature, etc.). In the terms they use, the 2006 Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings suggest that Australian higher education is marked by a culture of widespread excellence unlike any other country in the world. 32 per cent (12) of Australia's universities appeared among the world's top 100, compared with 10 per cent (13) of the UK’s. The UK regularly gets four of the world’s top ten places. This comparison makes sense though. The Australian quantum encourages innovation across the sector and rewards it proportionately, while the RAE concentrates funds markedly at the top.

The change lobby concentrates on the lack of Australian institutions at the very top of international indicators, and seeks ways to get an Australian elite dining at high table. There’s nothing wrong with giving more money to Australian teams while they are doing important work towards our understanding of diseases or social problems, as long as this is not linked to reductions in capacity funding for others (who knows where the next leading edge of innovation will break out?). I’m sure there would be simple ways of reviewing current indicators and supplying additional resources to effect this without detriment to the rest of the research sector. However, mandated by governments that want ever-greater returns for little additional investment, the change lobby gets sucked into thinking up econometric magic bullets based on the myth that a whole new system of measurement can usher in a whole new era of excellence, even after the historical productivity gains fostered by the quantum. So it is that instead of recognising the strong research base that now exists and behoves the government to invest further, they set out on the managerialist path of creating a new market model of academic activities, with new metaphors for price signals tied to academic outputs. As with the RAE, it seems these will map onto a diverse research sector narrow definitions of excellence that depend on the rest being marked as non-excellent.


A new ERA?

The evidence seems to be pointing towards a successor to the quantum designed to crack the high-end quality nut with a sledgehammer by putting much greater weight on measures of output quality. Although it is not (yet) formally linked to research funding, the Excellence in Research for Australia Initiative (ERA) currently under development by the Australian Research Council is based around three categories of performance indicators: activity, quality, and applied research and research translation. Exactly how these will be measured is still under consideration. However, publication indicators are proposed for use only under the ‘quality’ heading, with the principal approximations of quality being impact rating of journals and book publishers (divided into four tiers), and citations.

Although the system looks to be different from the RAE in many respects, if the outlet tiers are linked to funding in way similar to the RAE, such ranking would create large disparities between incomes generated by different academic publications. While it would be naïve to suggest the art of performance management is not yet practised in Australian universities, a research framework that induces a managerialist cut-off culture as severe as the RAE would, in combination with continued low funding and a zero-sum research pot, skew research culture towards exclusivity away from the relative inclusivity of the quantum. In chasing the units of resource that come with ‘the best’, managers would have a narrow, short-termist incentive to leave the residuum to rot as they invest in their proven elite research earners.

When it is considered that the recent discussion paper of the Bradley Committee review makes it quite clear that the specialisation of institutions and the relationship between teaching and research are back on the agenda, there is a real risk that the new research framework could be configured so as to force many institutions and departments to choose between teaching and research on economic grounds. The low levels of funding accorded to research performance deemed low and average could force such ‘rational choices’. This is what happens to university research under mechanisms like the RAE, which put a low unit price on many valid research outcomes (publications that are rated good, but not excellent). It does not fairly reward all for their efforts and fails to guarantee wide distribution of future opportunities to maintain production, as it does not provide adequate revenue for legitimate researchers and their departments to invest in future operations.

Especially for those of us working in a discipline that has been predicated on social inclusion in matters of culture, there is a lot to worry about here. The uneven distribution of capacity to do research between individuals, departments, institutions, and types of university is a class issue about who gets the opportunity to work with and benefit from knowledge, and on what grounds and under what conditions they are attributed this entitlement. The problem is the way mechanisms arbitrarily set the bar between and reward/punish success and failure. Those who are capable and have produced well, often in hard circumstances, but not enough to ‘break even’ as a profit-centre under the artificial scarcity of reward, are factored out of future production. In the age of selective funding mechanisms for university research, they are those (whether persons of units) who fail to produce research publications in the form or quantity required by the mechanism, even if a high value may be applied to their outputs in another regime of value. Whatever their potential, the mechanism closes down their research careers. As Frow notes, in Australia, cultural studies was developed at universities outside the research-intensive Group of Eight. There is every chance that any successor to the quantum forces virtually all funded research back into that consortium, by design. Let’s hope a Labour government can see that denying access to ideas and their creation to large sectors of the population at new universities is an exercise in social exclusion inimical to the egalitarianism its party stands for.

The new system could also bring with it intenser managerialism, greater pressures on staff, and a number of RAE-like distortions to academic processes. If applied, the publication criteria of the ERA would threaten academic autonomy of publishing. Professional discretion in presenting ideas to communities of interest could go down the pan, and the kind of work valued could be distorted, as with the RAE, but in different ways. Everyone would be urged chase the top journals and book publishers all the time, regardless of specialisations and peer networks revolving around them, restricting their work to what they think the publishing market wants. And they would most likely have to bear the costs of frequent failure because of a false standard applied to all. It would be sad indeed if the dynamism of Australian research culture all ended in tiers.


A simple plea

Although I’d love to work in a system where money is parceled out by postcode, I have no problem with selective funding per se if the cake is big enough and it is distributed fairly to cover the costs of all research undertaken, and if the mechanism captures all genuine performance with a light touch. The quantum needs tweaking, but it comes close to this by rewarding most valid research activity without engendering gross negative consequences. Problems come when systems are manipulated so as not to represent reasonably the value of many of the goods produced in the sector. They then threaten the public good in turn.

Instead of importing a refraction of the British class system that comes shrouded behind a meritocratic neoliberal patina, the new Australian government also has the option to avoid sweating its well-performing assets any further through evermore elaborate performance management. It can maintain a broad inclusive culture of innovation for the long term, even as it provides additional support for the ‘most excellent’. It can avoid mechanisms that generate the unintended hidden costs that come when institutions have to play elaborate high-stakes games to win basic capacity funding. Instead it can acknowledge the excellent productivity of Australian academics, maintain and refine a simple and relatively fair performance system, and build on it with funding levels that reflect the real value of academic production.



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Author Biography

Guy Redden, University of Sydney

Guy Redden is a Lecturer in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.