Performance Appraisal, Performance Management and Quality in Higher Education: Contradictions, Issues and Guiding Principles for the Future(1)

Article excerpt

The quality of institutional outcomes depends fundamentally on the work of staff, individually and collectively. Systematic staff appraisal or performance management procedures are generally assumed to comprise an important part of quality management and development in higher education institutions. Past approaches to such appraisal and performance management in higher education have had limited and confused purposes and their contribution to enhanced institutional performance and quality has been minimal. In some cases, the impact has been negative. For performance management to be relevant to the management and development of quality in the 21st century, the spotlight will need to fall on the manner in which organisational units are managed and led, and on the nurturing of teams, rather than the management of individual performance. A shift in emphasis from management to leadership will be required such that performance management becomes a central element in the leadership of change and the provision of transformational leadership.


The procedures and reports of audit teams and quality review panels over recent years have reinforced the assumption that systematic performance review or related procedures should comprise part of an institution's quality assurance and quality management processes. Almost all detailed institutional reports of the Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (1995) for the 1994 quality reviews include specific comments on institutions' academic staff appraisal procedures. Within the broad province of the management of staff, Warren-Piper's (1993) report on quality management in universities identifies staff review/appraisal as one of the five areas to be considered in response to the question: `What procedures has the university adopted for monitoring and assessing its performance in the area of staff management?' (p. 63).

Similar trends are evident in other countries. Early in the 1990s, the institutional reports of academic audits conducted in the United Kingdom contained commentaries on career review, appraisal and performance review procedures for academic staff. More recently, the 1997 Teaching and Learning Process Quality Reviews conducted by the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong, and similar processes in New Zealand, provided encouragement to the introduction and upgrading of performance appraisal procedures.

In Total quality in higher education, Lewis and Smith (1994) highlight the relationship between quality and the social system and culture of an organisation. Quality is fundamentally dependent on the work of individuals; the energy, commitment and competence -- the performance -- of everyone in the organisation determines the quality of an institution and its outcomes. Through their influence on the relationships between people and the environment in which individuals and groups work, managers play a central role in shaping organisational culture, both at the institutional level and within organisational units. `It is the social system that has the greatest impact on such factors as motivation, creativity, innovative behaviour and teamwork' (p. 86).

This article explores the relationships between quality and organisational culture, the leadership role of managers, the work of individuals and teams and, in mm, performance appraisal and performance management. Particular focus is on the following questions:

* What is the relationship between the management and development of quality in higher education, and performance appraisal and performance management?

* What is the relevance of performance appraisal and performance management to the management and development of quality in the 21st century?

* What steps need to be taken to maximise the relevance and utility of performance appraisal and performance management and facilitate their effective operation?

With an emphasis on the Australian scene the article first traces the evolution and effectiveness of performance appraisal in higher education, and its relationship with quality. …


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