A theoretical and discursive analysis: Performance and accountability for NZ university research/ers in neoliberal times

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Enhancing Higher Education, Theory and Scholarship Vol. 30

July, 2007, 651 pages
Published by
Geoffrey Crisp & Margaret Hicks
ISBN
0 908557 72 8
Abstract 

Investing in Excellence: The Report of the Performance-based Research Working Group (Ministry of Education and Transition Tertiary Education Commission 2002) was the key policy document introducing PBRF (Performance Based Research Fund) to New Zealand academics and their institutions. This paper argues that the document strongly amplified and reconstituted older neoliberal discourses of excellence, performance, quality and accountability in academic research and linked them with the new knowledge and innovation discourses of the knowledge society. Ironically, this most elaborate technology of surveillance over New Zealand academics and their research was introduced by a self- proclaimed Third Way Labour-led government wanting to differentiate itself from old style neoliberalism (Taylor 2005). Giddens (2000) has pointed out, however, that the attachment of strong neoliberal theories and discourses to Third Way government policies is actually an inherent facet of the so-called Third Way. The position taken in the paper is that policy by its very nature is discursive; it constitutes a position (often only one) and sets a frame for practice. It also constitutes a ‘rarity’ (this text was produced and no other) (Foucault 1969) that recycles statements from other texts and discourses and offers up its own statements to be repeated contemporaneously and through time. Of particular interest in the paper is the ‘fixity’ of certain neoliberal statements (Foucault 1969) to research policy discourses over time, particularly those insisting on the need to make academic researchers accountable.

Keywords: neoliberalism, universities, research policy.

A theoretical and discursive analysis: Performance and accountability for NZ university research/ers in neoliberal times

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Harvey, S.