Perhaps the best leader article I have read in the Times Higher Education these last several years can be found here.
Red Tape: A Form of Distrust
Academics are vociferous in their condemnation of bureaucracy, especially when it tries to measure the unmeasurable. Obviously, higher education must be accountable to its public paymasters, but if the audit becomes the goal, human nature is such that people will put more effort into the things that can be audited – never mind the quality, feel the paperwork. And even the Quality Assurance Agency does not assure quality; it merely ensures that the correct processes are in place to deliver it.
But banal and mind-numbing though it is, bureaucracy isn’t neutral. It is insidious, changing the nature of both teaching and research; it also, of course, has been used to push academics in uncomfortable directions.
The comments after the article make interesting reading. It appears that University administrators think the academics should stop bloody whingeing and fill in all those excellently-designed forms the administrators send them – and which the Faculty Education Management Committee’s Student Experience And Feedback Monitoring Oversight Subcommittee spent so many productive hours designing – more carefully.
Which is what I would call a: “Getting the Point Epic Fail“
A senior academic commenting as “Mark” sums it up for me:
“In so many cases, the main justification for the paper work is that “we have to be seen to be doing”. In other words, it doesn’t actually matter if the monitoring is working, it just matters that we have a sufficient paper trail to prove to others that we are doing it.”
Now back to filling in those overdue online forms for our latest internal “Research Performance Audit.”