RAE frenzy is destroying teaching 2

October 20, 2006

The performance-related measures being introduced are based on a simplistic managerial theory of human behaviour for which there is scant evidence. In fact, there are several problems with target-based bonuses. First, if people feel that their behaviour is being driven by external rewards then their intrinsic interest in an activity may be reduced.

Second, target-based bonuses lead people to "work the system". This has been known since 1952, when Donald Roy published an account of how lathe operators manipulated the incentive system rather than trying to maximise productivity. The problem may be even worse in white-collar work, where information can easily be hidden, manipulated and distorted.

Third, such scope for manipulation is likely to be exacerbated by the fact that there is no obvious objective way to measure productivity within universities. Furthermore, the subjectivity that will inevitably creep in is likely to lead to favouritism, not to mention institutionalised racism and sexism, over pay. In short, academics should think twice about agreeing to participate in such a tainted system.

David Hardman
London Metropolitan University

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