How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself

Another great piece by Chad Wellmon. What about the questions of higher education and the digital age…The university is a technology.

This essay, written with Andrew Piperfirst appeared on October 8, 2017 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ten years ago, the Higher Education Funding Council for England decided to “assess” the quality of research in universities across Britain by putting in place a new system, the Research Excellence Framework. In 2014, the Council and its institutional partners released a report that included evaluations of almost 200,000 “research outputs” ­— including journal articles, books, and conference proceedings. Since then academics on both sides of the Atlantic have ridiculed the REF, as the framework is known, as a bureaucratic boondoggle that values quantity over quality.

Despite the derision, analytic exercises such as the REF or the use of commercial databases, such as Academic Analytics, by universities in the United States have come to stand for a basic truth about the contemporary research university: Publications are the most fundamental…

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