Why measure research performance? A comparison of Australia, Canada and the UK

Stream: Panel 23 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Higher Education – Policy, Performance and Research Impacts
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Assessing research performance has become a central part of national higher education policy in many nations. Three reform-minded Anglophone nations with varying levels of centralisation in governmental regimes, and distinct performance measurement trajectories, are compared in this study. The UK was the leader in introducing the (quality-based) Research Assessment Exercise in 1986, while Australia first introduced a (quantity-based) national measurement system in 1995, moving to a new (quantity and quality-based) system in 2010. Canada is the control group in this study, since it does not have a national framework for assessing research performance. This paper aims to uncover the politics of performance measurement, by asking the question: “What is performance measurement for?” It compares the purposes of performance assessment in Australia, Canada and the UK, based on government documents and websites, and interviews with senior administrators in government departments and authorities and non-government organizations. The interview responses generate a view of who is involved, what they see as the purpose of this measurement, what is measured and why, and who resists. National system differences clearly have an influence on the politics of performance measurement. And while there are similarities in the purposes behind performance measurement in these three nations, the emphasis of measurement differs substantially from place to place, revealing government preferences in regard to what is important.


Jenny Lewis (Presenter), University of Melbourne
Jenny Lewis is Professor of Public Policy and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne.