The Unsteady Ascendancy Of Market Accountability In Australian And English Higher Education

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Increased accountability is at the centre of widespread educational reforms which feature the rhetoric of deregulation. Not only have educational systems, institutions, and practitioners been required to be more accountable, but arguably the nature of accountability has also changed from professional and democratic to managerial and market forms. In particular, within the hegemonic discourses of the market ideology, market accountability to paying customers has been foregrounded. However, the hegemony is not complete. Governments have often positioned themselves as 'market managers', creating a complex and often contradictory relationship between new forms of market and managerial accountability, layered on top of more traditional notions of professional and democratic accountability.

This paper explores the changing nature of accountability in Australian and English higher education. As we enter the twenty-first century, central higher education authorities in both countries are conducting major reviews and revisionings of mechanisms to enhance the accountability of universities. Whilst acknowledging the potential homogenisation of policy directions with globalisation, this paper analyses policy differences, as well as similarities. The findings of analysis of documents and interviews at both the national level and within particular case study universities in each country are reported. There are significant differences in the ways in which particular policies are produced, received, negotiated, resisted and transformed in the different contexts - hence the 'unsteady' ascendancy of market accountability.