Bureaucracy and its limits: accountability and rationality in higher education

Murphy, M. (2009) Bureaucracy and its limits: accountability and rationality in higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(6), pp. 683-695. (doi:10.1080/01425690903235169)

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Abstract

Alongside debates concerning managerialism, marketisation and performativity, the question of accountability in higher education has come to the fore in recent commentary. Discussion of the subject has tended to be divided into two distinct camps. On the one hand, there are strong calls for more accountability to the public purse – a desire to witness more productive returns and efficiency on investment in higher education. On the other, there are academics who rail against the oppressive, panoptican‐like nature of the audit culture, emphasising the debilitating effects of quality assurance mechanisms on academic life. The paper suggests that one way out of this impasse is to place the current accountability agenda – what Travers refers to as the ‘new bureaucracy’ – in the context of Max Weber's account of bureaucracy and rationality. Habermas' reconstructed version of Weber's work is identified as a possible means of delineating the reaches and limits of modern bureaucratic accountability.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Murphy, Dr Mark
Authors: Murphy, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Journal Name:British Journal of Sociology of Education
ISSN:0142-5692
ISSN (Online):1465-3346
Published Online:20 October 2009

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