23 SES 13 C, Bureaucracy and Instrumentalism in Education
This paper examines the affective and gendered dimensions of the metrics, measurement and surveillance practices employed in monitoring and assessing staff in higher education. Itdraws on previous theoretical and empirical work by the author (Cantillon and Lynch, 2017; Lynch, 2015; Lynch, Grummell and Devine, 2012), and on findings from a recent study of ten representative higher education institutions in Ireland.
The study investigated equality issues arising in working, learning and caring in higher education in Ireland. It involved visits to all the colleges, and interviews with 102 staff members (59% women and 41% men) across the higher educational sector. Unlike many studies on higher education, the interviewees included participants from a range of different occupational groups, as well as academics and researchers.
Higher education has undergone profound restructuring and extended commercialisation along new managerial lines over the past 20 years (Hazelkorn, 2011; 2017). While the changes in modes of governance and regulation are more pronounced in Anglophone countries, they are also quite pervasive in mainland Europe (Halffman, W., and Radder, 2015: Herschberg, Benschop, van den Brink, 2018; Lynch, 2015).
As commercialised neoliberal norms take hold in academia, new managerialism represents the organisational form of this neoliberalism (Lynch and Grummell, 2018). The new managerialism regime of targets, standardisation, measurement and surveillance, are all-encompassing, practised even by those who abhor them or who find them morally objectionable. While metrics are at the heart of academic governance, and people are constantly evaluated and self-evaluating, as are their Departments and Universities, debates about measurement and metrics have not given adequate attention to how affective relations of care are reframed in the new managerial order, not only inside, but also outside the academy due to the intersectionality of personal and occupational lives.
While the data suggests that there are many complex ways in which staff inhabit and contest the new managerial modes of measurement and surveillance, the use of metrics themselves are deeply antithetical the practice of caring in a way that has profound gendered and affective relational implications.
When the value of an employee is based entirely on metrices and positivist forms of measurement, our data suggests that this undermines the care of the self, of students and colleagues, as well as relational affective ties in families and intimate relationships. As women are assigned a disproportionate responsibility for caring in all societies, metrics that only count what is countable in the present time, and the short term, are also deeply gendered; the value of the very necessary care work that underpins collegiality and education cannot be quantified and accounted for in a metric system.
However, the new managerial system of metric-based values would not have become incorporated in academia without producing beneficiaries and promoters. Meeting the metrics is deeply seductive and inviting for those who are structurally located to play the game and win. In this regard, the paper will explore how measurement feeds on and nourishes conformity to quantifiable forms productivity. A successful ‘career’ is the measure of moral worth rather than education or research per se.
The article is based on research involving 10 higher education institutions in Ireland, chosen on a strategic sampling basis to represent the major sectors of higher education, namely universities and institutes of technology. The study took place between 2014 and 2017 and was funded by the Irish Research Council. A total of 102 semi-structured in-depth interviews were undertaken across the colleges, of which 59% were with women and 41% were men; all types of employees were sampled, senior management, professors/lecturers, researchers, IT/technicians, library staff, administrative staff, HR, student support staff, and general service workers. Of the women interviewed, 43% (n=22) were employed as academics, compared with 23 men. Academics from the main fields of scholarship in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Law, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics were included in the study of academics and research staff; 60% of all staff employed were permanent employees, while a further 6% were quasi-permanent having what are known as ‘contracts of indefinite duration’. Almost 30% were on time-specific contracts. Staff were representative of all age groups. The study focused on interviewees’ experiences in relation to their working, caring and educational lives, and the equality issues that arose in those fields. Using semi-structured interviews, we explored how staff experienced changes and developments in higher education and how they managed their working, caring and learning lives at a time of intense change in higher education. Data was coded over a three-month period and analysed for key themes using NVivo software. Codes were cross-checked between the researchers who blind-coded others’ work for verification purposes. Several themes emerged from the analysis, including gender and care; equality and inequality; power and autonomy; measurement and metrics; careers; time pressures and the rise of new technologies; appreciation, recognition and emotions; and collegiality, community, and collective mobilisation and resistance at work. In this paper, I focus on three inter-related themes, measurement and metrics, care, and equality.
In common with many other countries, there is a highly individualistic system of competitive managerialism operating in higher education in Ireland, not only among academics but also among other professional and service staff as employees are now measured and graded, in a way that is not dissimilar to students. Metrics are inscription devices that constitute what they appear to represent (Rose, 1999). They label and stratify people by an ostensibly ‘objective’ measure, creating a common cognitive space in which the value of individuals and universities can be appraised, even if the means of achieving it is arbitrary, selective and problematic in scientific terms (Borer & Lawn, 2013, p. 49). In political and policy terms, metrics greatly simplify governance and control by precluding conflicts with a seemingly unassailable objectivity (Lingard, 2011). And because numbers are internationally intelligible, they can be interpreted cross culturally without translation. Quantification allows for communication beyond borders in a way that narrative-laden evaluations do not. The power of numbers grants metrics an unwarranted truth status. Because they are perceived to be non-contestable, they create what they purport to measure. They create people for whom ‘careers’ documented in numbers of achievements are literally what count (be it in management targets reached, fundraising, publications, citations, student outputs, books borrowed, articles downloaded, student responses, attendances etc.). Given that one of the primary purposes of education is to nurture, educare, the data suggests that new managerialism induces a deep carelessness (Lynch, 2010) at the heart of academia that is classed, gendered and, occasionally raced. Even if caring could be monitored and measured through matrices, the very doing of this would force people into the calculation of other-centeredness that would undermine the very principle of relatedness and mutuality that is at the heart of teaching and learning, and of affective relationality itself.
Borer, V., & Lawn, M. (2013). Governing education systems by shaping data: From the past to the present, from national to international perspectives. European Educational Research Journal, 12(1), 48–52. Cantillon, S. and Lynch, K. (2017) 'Affective Equality: love matters'. Hypatia: a journal of feminist philosophy, 32 (1):169-186. Grummell, B., Devine, D. & Lynch, K. (2009) ‘The Careless Manager: Gender, Care and New Managerialism in Higher Education. Gender and Education, 21 (2) 191-208. Hazelkorn, E. (2017). Global rankings and the geopolitics of higher education: Understanding the influence and impact of rankings on higher education, policy and society. London: Routledge. Herschberg, C. Yvonne Benschop, Y., van den Brink, M. (2018) Precarious postdocs: A comparative study on recruitment and selection of early-career researchers, Scandinavian Journal of Management (34): 303–310. Lingard, B. (2011). Policy as numbers: Ac/counting for educational research. The Australian Educational Researcher, 38, 355–382. doi:10.1007/s13384-011-0041-9. Lynch, K. (2010) ‘Carelessness: a hidden doxa of higher education’, Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, Vol. 9 (1): 54-67. Lynch, K. (2015) ‘Control by numbers: new managerialism and ranking in higher education’ Critical Studies in Education, 56 (2): 190-207. Lynch, K. and Grummell, B. (2018) New Managerialism as the Organisational form of Neoliberalism. In F. Sowa, R. Staples and S. Zapfel (Eds.) The Transformation of Work in Welfare State Organizations: New Public Management and the Institutional Diffusion of Ideas. London and New York: Routledge: 201-222. Lynch, K., Grummell, B. and Devine, D. (2012, 2015) New Managerialism in Education: Commercialization Carelessness and Gender. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Halffman, W., and Radder, H. (2015) The Academic Manifesto: From an Occupied to a Public University, Minerva, 53 (2): 165-187. Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
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