Professional Development for Educational Management

By Lesley Kydd; Megan Crawford et al. | Go to book overview

13
Appraising appraisal: some tensions
and some possibilities*

BARRY HUTCHINSON


Introduction

Now that the steam and mists generated in the public debate about appraisal have evaporated, and staff appraisal is becoming a part of the fabric of university procedures, it is opportune to begin to reflect on the extent to which the claimed benefits (DES 1987) and the expressed worries and concerns (Dockrell et al. 1986) about appraisal are being borne out in practice. Appraisal was of course only one of a number of structural changes introduced to the university sector, but it was potentially a significant one since it would impinge directly on the work of every member of staff, and on the internal structures and relationships within each university.

The Jarratt Report (1985), produced by that ‘too pliant and compliant … committee’ (Elton 1988), made a number of recommendations concerning organisational arrangements in universities which it claimed would improve the efficiency of their running. Among these was included the recommendation that academic departments should become cost centres which if implemented would lead to devolution of responsibility and accountability to heads of department. Besides proffering performance criteria by which departments (and their heads) might be assessed, the report, in recommending the virtues of providing written job descriptions for heads of department, pointed to the question of the wisdom of marrying administrative and academic leadership roles in the one position. Being minded to make such a recommendation, it emphasised the need to maintain a careful balance between the two responsibilities. In effect, what Jarratt was proposing was that universities adopt a more stratified and hierarchical system of line management, a proposal which it may be said was in line with much orthodox thinking about management structures of the time. Such a structure was already in place in the University of Ulster. […]

Shortly after its publication, agreement was reached between the various parties on the

*This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Higher Education in 1995.

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