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Neoliberalism, Performance Measurement, and the Governance of American Academic Science

Abstract

The international thrust of neoliberal liberal policies on higher education systems has generally been to reduce governmental control over the operations of universities in de facto exchange for these institutions assuming increased responsibility for generating a larger share of their revenues and for providing quantitative evidence of performance. Differences in the structural and financial arrangements of the U.S. higher education and academic science system from those of other countries — especially the greater importance of private research universities and the modest share of state government appropriations in the operating budgets of public research universities — produce a different set of impacts and dynamics. Political demands for increased accountability, as in the recent, if rejected proposals of the U.S. Department of Education, would have increased government control of the operations of higher education institutions. Performance measurement systems used in some countries to allocate a portion of public sector funds for academic research are infrequently used in the U.S. Instead, these mechanisms and metrics increasingly reflect the displacement of professional and collegial decision-making by quantitatively based administrative procedures.

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