Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

A Qualitative Case Study Exploring the Nature of New Managerialism in UK Higher Education and Its Impact on Individual Academics' Experience of Doing Research

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

A Qualitative Case Study Exploring the Nature of New Managerialism in UK Higher Education and Its Impact on Individual Academics' Experience of Doing Research

Article excerpt


UK Universities are very different places to work in than they were 30 years ago. The Higher Education Sector within the UK has undergone a major shift in terms of its fundamental role and function within society as well as the mechanisms through which it is delivered. This pace of change continues as the Government increasingly looks to the HE sector to provide innovation, and a skilled workforce, in support of national economic competitiveness (Lambert, 2003; Leitch, 2006; Sainsbury, 2007; DIUS 2008; BIS 2011). What was once a fairly independent sector is now subject to a range of different pressures arising from being situated somewhere in between nationalisation and privatisation (Tight, 2006, p.254).

These developments have been analysed through a New Managerial (NM) framework. The concept of NM was originally developed in the context of changes to the way that governments approached the organisation and delivery of public services. NM suggested that the public sector was organised on the basis of neoliberal ideologies associated with economic competitiveness within a global market place, and that greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of services was sought through the use of management practices derived from the corporate world (Politt 1990; Clarke & Newman, 2004; Hursh, 2005; Davies et al 2006). Many studies suggested that changing management practices had primarily negative effects on universities and academics (Deem et al, 2000, 2007; Shelley, 2005). This was associated with challenges to the professional position and identity of the academic as well as increased stress, bureaucratisation, marketisation, corporatisation and performance measurement within the academic work environment.

However, the concept of NM itself has been problematised with the suggestion that it has changed over time, and that its application within HE in particular has been either hybridised or is incomplete (Deem et al 2007; Clegg, 2008). In addition, given the negative impacts identified, it is unclear why individual researchers appear to continue their research activity with apparent enthusiasm and success. Moreover, it is unclear how universities seemed to adhere to NM ideologies and practices whilst upholding more traditional academic values and customs. This questions the actual nature of NM in universities and, consequently, how this impacts upon individual academics. Other studies focus more directly on the experience of the individual academic. These studies indicated that academic workers engaged in strategies that enabled them to pursue their own agenda and attain ideals of academic freedom in spite of management regimes (Bennich-Bjorkman, 2007; Archer, 2008; Clegg, 2008, Kolsaker 2008; Akerlind, 2008).

Further exploration was therefore undertaken to try to understand the particular nature of management practices being applied to research activity, and how these practices affected the working lives of university researchers. This article presents a qualitative case study investigating the impact of New Managerialism (NM) on the perceptions and experiences of individual researchers by exploring what it is like to do research work within a selected English university.

New Managerialism in UK Higher Education

New Managerialism

Attempts to define NM have arisen as commentators have sought to understand, describe and explain the changes taking place in the provision of public sector services since the late 1970s. It has been defined as:

* an ideology, legitimizing the development of new organizational forms and relationships;

* a practical ideology of'being business like in order to make the new arrangements work. (Clarke & Newman, 2004, p. 32)

The concept of NM therefore seeks firstly to explain the socio-economic and political reasons behind why particular organizational regimes have been developed and, secondly, to describe the ways in which public services are now being delivered. …

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