Mission to explain

May 30, 1997

MARILYN Strathern of the University of Cambridge (Letters, THES, March 28) suggested that our views about improving universities' accountability, particularly for teaching and research activities ("Publish and be Praised", THES, March 21), are naive and out of touch.

I wonder who is naive and out of touch?

University funding in many countries has come under severe pressure in recent years, partly because of widely held public perceptions of low efficiency, effectiveness and inadequate accountability in the sector.

Without debating here whether such perceptions are fair or not, the universities can do much to help themselves by making the effort to explain their progress in teaching and research to the wider community.

As to compliance costs, I think these are easily exaggerated. Most of the information that we suggest should be disclosed in external public reports also should be collected and circulated routinely for internal management purposes.

Readers interested in a public accountability approach to external reporting may care to browse through the 1996 Annual Report of the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, which was available on the World Wide Web at the end of March 1997, 87 days after balance date. The address is: http://www.vuw.ac.nz and can be found under information for members of staff, then publications.

David Coy

School of management studies, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

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