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Academics’ Perspectives of Performance Management in a British University Context

By William Hon Kwan Tam


This study provides an in-depth understanding of how academics perceive and\ud experience a performance management system in a British university. Specifically, it\ud examines - within the context of a university department - the meaning and purposes of performance management; the effectiveness of the processes; the management of the system and its effectiveness; the impact of the system on academics’ working lives; and the areas requiring improvement. The study particularly explores the tension between\ud performance management as a means of accountability within a managerial context and the more traditional academic ethos of professional autonomy. The research adopts a\ud qualitative case study approach by selecting a School of Education in an older researchled University. The case School was primarily chosen for its ease of access. However, it had also operated performance management for some time, and it had academics with both high and low research profiles, a phenomenon which was likely to present a range of experiences of the performance management system. Twelve academics with varied backgrounds in terms of years of service, seniority and gender were participants in the study. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and documentary sources between September 2006 and February 2007. A two-level analytical coding approach was used to derive themes from the collected data. Among the major findings were that the participants found the meanings and purposes of performance management ambiguous; and that the many different processes contained within the system were perceived as fragmenting and confusing in achieving the intended outcomes. Compounding the concern was the lack of dedicated and able academics to manage the process. With work intensification - a prominent feature of academic life, academics became frustrated with the lack of time available for their research work. To defend their research ethos, the study provides evidence that some academics look for a more structured system to address the unbalanced workload issue

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/4036

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