Evaluation and accountability are two of the most popular catchwords employed by higher education reformers in the Western world over the last twenty-five years. Universities, just like other public organizations, have undergone profound, radical change during that time. Generally speaking, this has been the age of New Public Management for universities as well, even though this epithet only partly reflects what has really been going on in western higher education systems, and thus in the Italian system too, where the constitutive elements of higher education systems and policies have been radically redesigned. The “ivory towers” of higher education have been under constant pressure to change their attitude, behaviour and traditional values, and the questions of evaluation and institutional accountability have been of focal importance to the ensuing process of change. Evaluation implies the external scrutiny and assessment of all fundamental university functions; not only research and teaching, but also administrative activities and financial management. Institutional accountability, which represents the other side of the coin, means that universities are asked to give account of their own performance to the external stake-holders, in particular to government and the public. Evaluation and institutional accountability are two fundamental aspects of the “steering at a distance” strategy that has been adopted in recent years, especially in mainland Europe. This strategy is a result of governments’ decision to improve the performance of their universities by abandoning the more traditional “command and control” approach and promoting university autonomy, while at the same time adopting a policy approach based on the need for improved accountability and responsiveness, and on a performance-linked system of funding. This has now become a long-term process, whereby governments try to “govern” higher education systems, and to re-align their behaviour and performance so that meet current socioeconomic demands and needs to a greater degree. Seen from a comparative perspective, this has not been an homogeneous process; nor has it displayed any clearly “convergent” trend when observed from the substantial, rather than from just the formal, point of view (in other words, while it is true that all countries have adopted certain forms of evaluation and quality assessment, their impact on policy process, output and outcome differs enormously). From this point of view, higher education policy has emerged as fertile terrain for policy process theorists, and represents a challenging area for those scholars interested in understanding and explaining policy change, and in prescribing useful policy instruments and strategies to policy-makers. Higher education policies are intrinsically idiosyncratic, that is, firmly path-dependant. Furthermore, as Burton Clark pointed out universities are strange institutions: they are, at one and the same time, both resilient and yet ever-changing, as attested by the fact that they still exist nine centuries after their inception, albeit in a completely different form from that of their origins. So, the way in which the new policy ideas (generally summed up under labels such as evaluative State, supervisory state, steering at a distance, etc..) have been implemented is a very interesting topic.

Evaluation and institutional accountability in Italian Higher education

CAPANO, GILIBERTO
2008

Abstract

Evaluation and accountability are two of the most popular catchwords employed by higher education reformers in the Western world over the last twenty-five years. Universities, just like other public organizations, have undergone profound, radical change during that time. Generally speaking, this has been the age of New Public Management for universities as well, even though this epithet only partly reflects what has really been going on in western higher education systems, and thus in the Italian system too, where the constitutive elements of higher education systems and policies have been radically redesigned. The “ivory towers” of higher education have been under constant pressure to change their attitude, behaviour and traditional values, and the questions of evaluation and institutional accountability have been of focal importance to the ensuing process of change. Evaluation implies the external scrutiny and assessment of all fundamental university functions; not only research and teaching, but also administrative activities and financial management. Institutional accountability, which represents the other side of the coin, means that universities are asked to give account of their own performance to the external stake-holders, in particular to government and the public. Evaluation and institutional accountability are two fundamental aspects of the “steering at a distance” strategy that has been adopted in recent years, especially in mainland Europe. This strategy is a result of governments’ decision to improve the performance of their universities by abandoning the more traditional “command and control” approach and promoting university autonomy, while at the same time adopting a policy approach based on the need for improved accountability and responsiveness, and on a performance-linked system of funding. This has now become a long-term process, whereby governments try to “govern” higher education systems, and to re-align their behaviour and performance so that meet current socioeconomic demands and needs to a greater degree. Seen from a comparative perspective, this has not been an homogeneous process; nor has it displayed any clearly “convergent” trend when observed from the substantial, rather than from just the formal, point of view (in other words, while it is true that all countries have adopted certain forms of evaluation and quality assessment, their impact on policy process, output and outcome differs enormously). From this point of view, higher education policy has emerged as fertile terrain for policy process theorists, and represents a challenging area for those scholars interested in understanding and explaining policy change, and in prescribing useful policy instruments and strategies to policy-makers. Higher education policies are intrinsically idiosyncratic, that is, firmly path-dependant. Furthermore, as Burton Clark pointed out universities are strange institutions: they are, at one and the same time, both resilient and yet ever-changing, as attested by the fact that they still exist nine centuries after their inception, albeit in a completely different form from that of their origins. So, the way in which the new policy ideas (generally summed up under labels such as evaluative State, supervisory state, steering at a distance, etc..) have been implemented is a very interesting topic.
Changing Educational Accountability in Europe
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/64185
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