Journal Article

Managing Leadership in University Reform: data-led decision-making, the cost of learning and deja vu?


The contemporary English policy discourse in higher education of ‘Putting Students at the Heart of the System’ has led to an increasing use of managing by performance ‘smart-data’ reinforcing a consumer-led representation of students as ‘partners’ in the ‘business of learning’ within the academy. This approach disguises ongoing fundamental changes to academic work by mixing an increased ‘market-driven’ transparency with ‘accountability’ in ‘institutional and organization management’, utilizing so-called research-led or evidence-informed practice. The policy discourse masks and limits any critique of such data production, or more particularly its purposes and uses, while perhaps yet more significantly, generating an associated ‘modernizing’ rhetoric impacting multiple levels of decision-making throughout the HE institution. Evidence from previous research into school sector reform as data-based decision-making became mainstreamed is used to support our prognosis for the future. Drawing upon documentary analysis of KIS (Key Information Sets) and other publicly available data, this article presents a critique of widespread institutional reform that is rapidly becoming reliant upon what we call ‘data-smart policy’. In conclusion, a series of emerging issues are identified as part of managing the way forward in meeting data access requirements, ensuring student satisfaction and consumer protection, while preserving intellectual values associated with substantive scholarship and sound academic leadership.

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Browne, Elizabeth
Rayner, Stephen

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2013
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-09-24

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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