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Rank Irrelevance : How Academia Lost Its Way

"It is impossible to abandon rankings outright, since the impulse to grade things seems hard–wired into human nature. Rankings also serve an important bureaucratic purpose. University administrators crave simple metrics of performance, which help guide decisions on where to invest scarce resources. They steer students and their parents toward some institutions and away from others. Finally, they help government and philanthropists make decisions about where to award lucrative grants and donations. In other words, rankings save work, eliminating the time–consuming tasks of reading of book manuscripts or carefully learning about the substance of academic fields.

The ease of using them explains, in part, why university rankings are such big business. Today, there is a veritable cottage industry for them. They run the gamut from the simple U.S. News & World Report to the NRC approach. University rankings have also gone global: foreign scholars, new private companies such as Quacquarelli Symonds, and long–standing publications such as The Times Higher Education Supplement have all entered the rankings market to tell professors where they sit in the global intellectual pecking order. ...

stakeholders within and outside academia should take all rankings with a grain of salt. Even the most sophisticated ones have flaws and biases, and capture only indirectly and poorly important things such as creative thinking and exciting teaching. Rankings of all kinds should be downgraded in university decision–making. Of course, this means that university faculty and administrators will have to put in the hard work of familiarizing themselves with the substance of the academic fields they oversee. But doing so will ultimately produce better scholarship that also speaks to audiences outside university walls."

(Peter Campbell and Michael C. Desch, 16 September 2013, Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.)



academia • academic fields • bureaucratic purpose • contribution to societycultural impactdemonstrable valuediverse metrics • grant money • lecturersnarrow measuresnew measurement frontier • pecking order • performance metricsperformativitypublic value • Quacquarelli Symonds • ranking • rankings • rankings market • significancestakeholdersTimes Higher Education Supplement • university academics • university administrators • university decision-making • university faculty • university rankings


Simon Perkins
27 MARCH 2012

AHRC Impact Case Studies: demonstrating the value of research through the influence on the wider public discourse

"In recent years there has been mounting concern to understand the distribution, utility and influence of research findings in non–academic contexts. This concern originates in part from political imperatives to demonstrate public value, for research to move towards pragmatic considerations in wider public discourse, in cultural, industry and policy environments.

All UK Research Councils are expected to be able to demonstrate the wider impact and value of academic research. The important question that we must seek to address is: what is the contribution of arts and humanities research to society? Or, what is the impact or influence of arts and humanities research outside the academy?

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has commissioned a series of case studies to investigate the impact of arts and humanities research. Across the series as a whole, impact has been defined in its broadest sense to include economic, social and cultural elements. The case studies included in this publication focus on the social impact of two artist exhibitions, specifically concentrating on visitor responses and reactions.

Established in April 2005, the Arts and Humanities Research Council provides funding for a range of UK wide programmes, supporting the highest quality research and postgraduate training in the arts and humanities."

(Arts and Humanities Research Council UK)

2). Social Impact of Artist Exhibitions: Two Case Studies



2005academic researchacademyAHRC • artist exhibition • arts and humanities • arts and humanities research • case studiescontribution to societycultural impactdemonstrable value • economic impact • funded researchgovernment policyimpact case studiesimpact of researchimpact on societyimpact on the economy • influence • knowledge integration • non-academic contexts • perceived value • performativity • political imperatives • postgraduate trainingpragmatic considerationspublic value • publicly funded • REF • research council • research findingsresearch outputsresearch publication • research quality • significancesocial impact • taxpayers • UK • utility of research • value • visitor responses • wider impact • wider public discourse


Simon Perkins
30 MAY 2010

Enabling entrepreneurial organisational culture within art and design

"Gibbs, Knapper and Piccinin (2009) describe a perceived shift of organisational culture over time from, collegial to bureaucratic to corporate and finally to a fourth entrepreneurial culture characterised 'by a focus on competence and an orientation to the outside world, involving continuous learning in a turbulent context. The management style involves devolved and dispersed leadership. Decisionmaking is flexible and emphasises accountable, professional expertise. Students are seen as partners.' (p. 6). UCA is considering whether an entrepreneurial culture is most suited to its ambitions for increased internal and external collaboration and if so the associated consequences for the working relationships between leaders and academics, and the degree of academic autonomy.

If universities were to accept a need to change their cultures and become more entrepreneurial, then it is possible that this might lead to confusion amongst staff as they experience aspects of different types of culture. Gibbs, Knapper and Piccinin (2009) note that this model of four organisational cultures is oversimplified and that is possible for 'individuals to hold conflicting perceptions of the organisational culture at the same time' (p. 6). Nevertheless, the model does seem to be useful in helping to reflect on the type of culture that might be desirable for a university offering art and design subjects."

(Paul Coyle, 2010)

Coyle, P. (2010). 'Crossing Boundaries – Creative Spaces'. Cumulus, International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media. Genk, Belgium.


2010 • Association of University Administrators • AUA • boundary • Christopher Knapper • collaborationcollaborative working • Creative Arts Leadership and Management • creative industriesCumulus Associationdisciplines • entrepreneurial culture • Graham Gibbshigher educationindependent decision-makingindividual initiativeinnovationleadershipmanagementmultidisciplinarynexusorganisational culture • organisational models • partnership • Paul Coyle • public value • Sergio Piccinin • teachingUCAUKUniversity for the Creative Arts • values-driven leadership


Simon Perkins

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