Research assessments and rankings: Accounting for accountability in "Higher Education Ltd"

Geeta Singh


Over the past two decades, higher education in advanced capitalist societies has undergone a process of radical “reform”. A key element of this reform has been the introduction of a number of accounting-based techniques in the pursuit of improved accountability and transparency. While the “old” accounting was to do with stewardship, the “new” accounting is to do with performance. In accordance with the performance principle, the publishing companies and the higher education funding bodies have engaged in ranking exercises. These exercises impact on all aspects of academic life as the entities that are ranked and rated include universities, disciplines, journals, and academics and their “outputs” in teaching and research. This paper explores the genesis and the consequences of the performance discourse. It argues for a philosophical separation of the notions of accountability and accounting. Furthermore, it raises the issue of academic accountability as something that exceeds the logic of accounting.

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