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auditing as the eternal present: organisational transformation in british higher education

Baker, Gideon and May, Tim ORCID: 2002. auditing as the eternal present: organisational transformation in british higher education. European political science 1 (3) , pp. 12-22. 10.1057/eps.2002.25

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This article examines organisational transformation within higher education in Britain. In the prcess, it highlights the focus upon the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ of organisational existence that guides these changes. Drawing on recent experiences of auditing of subject provision within universities, it is argued that the new discourse of managerialism that is reflected in the drive for ‘quality assurance’ constitutes the triumph of method over purpose. Interal to the thinking motivating these transformations is an uncritical attachment to putatively universal forms of market-oriented practice. This, in tum, involves a process of historical forgetting vis-à-vis the academy's longer-standing practices that have been rooted in bodies of organisational knowledge developed out of a distinct ethos. The resulting sense of an ‘eteral present’ constructs points of diference from newly dominant discourses of organisational practice as merely ‘old-fashioned’ customs to be overcome. A denial of the possibility of diference with regard to local practices and forms of knowledge has particular consequences for the possibility of mounting any form of critique. It is assumed that ideas of ‘best practice’ are generic and transcend specific forms of organisational knowledge evolved at the front line of educational service delivery. Knowledge developed through practice (phronesis) is sidelined in favour of the imposition of a supposed technically neutral knowledge, assisted by the growing army of those now charged with ‘quality assurance’. Little space is then left for the practicaly reasonable decision-making that must always be a matter of judgement, leared in contexts that are subject to change. It is on this basis that we examine the idea of the ‘eteral present’ that now characterises the ascendancy of method over purpose in British higher education institutions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 January 2023
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 07:33

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