Frameworks and Regulation: is Australia at a tipping point?

Year: 2016

Author: Yates, Lyn, Millar, Victoria, O'Connor, Kate, Woelert, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

At the university level in recent decades there has been a notable expansion of centralized steering at a distance in relation to research performance via the use of national research priorities, targeted funding schemes within the ARC and the ERA research assessment. Many of the types of measures and categories used nationally are further replicated within institutions in individual and department performance measures (cf Woelert & Yates, 2015). In relation to schooling, a new national framework for an Australian Curriculum has been developed by ACARA, and important benchmarking developments that potentially impact on schools are put into action via NAPLAN testing across different years, via the competition and mechanisms associated with ATAR scoring, and via the public display of data and comparison of ‘like’ schools on the My School website. In this research project we focused on how academics and teachers are being affected by and responding to these mechanisms. For universities the concern is the over-use of uniform quantified templates designed by and for management (often micro-management) purposes, and which pay insufficient attention to disciplinary difference and introduce some distorting measures to research production. For schools, the common template of the Australian Curriculum framework has some similar risks, but the performance measures work more indirectly, at school and school culture level rather than as individual performance measures. We argue that the creation of new national frameworks and some forms of accountability for all sectors has some in principle justification, but is hampered by the close association with politics and the bureaucratic heaviness associated with the national approach. Woelert, P., & Yates, L. (2015). Too little and too much trust: Performance measurement in Australian higher education. Critical Studies in Education, 56(2): 175-189.