Susan Wright, Danish school of Education (DPU), Aarhus University
A torrent of reforms in recent decades have tried to make universities ‘world class’, ‘entrepreneurial’, more efficient in producing ‘knowledge workers’, and even turn them into ‘drivers’ of a so-called knowledge economy. The governance of universities has been changed, with more ‘top-down’ steering and the appointment of strategic managers who are expected to increase the output and performance of academics and students. Often they have resorted to techniques to manage academics’ performance like key performance indicators, output measurement (publications and/or student passes), annually rising targets, and balanced score cards. These have been tried in industrial corporations since the 1980s and shown to fail: they skew outputs to ‘what counts’, people become abjected, and they generate inordinate levels of stress. Indeed when managing people gives way to measuring dislocated aspects of people and their outputs, such audit systems induce a regresssion of trust. This is especially inappropriate in knowledge organisations. This paper will review some disastrous examples of the introduction of such measures in universities, and then turn attention to alternatives based on ‘trust’. It will review current work on formulating a ‘trust university’ where the manager is responsible for facilitating academics’ development of the university’s core functions of research and teaching, and the organisation aims to develop an ethos of ‘critical encouragement’.