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Competitive Accountability in Academic Life

The Struggle for Social Impact and Public Legitimacy

Richard Watermeyer

This book considers how a culture of ‘competitive accountability’ in UK higher education produces multiple tensions, contradictions and paradoxes that are destabilizing and deleterious to the work and identities of academics as research scientists. It suggests the potential of a new discourse of scientific accountability, that frees scientists and their public communities from the absurdities and profligacy of ‘performativity’ and ‘managerial governmentality’ encountered in the REF and an impact agenda – the noose of competitive accountability – and a more honest and meaningful public contract.
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Chapter 3: A shortfall of resistance: peripheral yet powerful zones of (non)participation

Richard Watermeyer


This chapter looks at the ways in which academics and students have responded in resistance to the neoliberalization of universities in the UK and the terms of competitive accountability. It considers how academics’ non-compliance with the expectations and demands of competitive accountability causes their marginalization and exclusion from university life. It is argued, however, that this kind of enforced displacement generates powerful zones of (non)participation through which critical solidarity and collective activism are mobilized. The chapter concludes with five hypotheses concerning a counter-hegemonic response to competitive accountability.

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