“The introduction of performance assessment systems and the transformation of the academic profession in Portugal”
ISA Interim RC52 conference
In the context of public administration reform, the generalized introduction of individual performance assessment - based upon the measurement of merit through standardized and objective criteria of productivity - has provoked significant changes in the academic profession within public higher education in Portugal. Given that employment security was made contingent upon obtaining adequate, positive scores and that promotion now requires achieving maximum scores, new institutional cultures, framed by precariousness and competition, quickly emerged. The consolidation of a new meritocratic order has thereby stimulated varied individualized performance strategies, in the attempt to survive or advance in the career structure. Such tendencies have, moreover, been exacerbated as a consequence of crisis-induced austerity, since the awards for excellent performance have been suppressed (through freezing promotion and pay premiums), while the punitive threat for inadequate productivity has been maintained. This paper traces the development of assessment models in Portuguese public higher education since 2010 and examines the range of academics’ reactions in light of institutional change. It advances the hypothesis of an evolution from resistance to change and innovation to routinization and acceptance of assessment logics and procedures, that is reflective of the underlying differentiation of academics’ resources and adaptive capacities. This study is based upon ongoing qualitative research consisting of analysis of union position statements, interviews with union representatives and academic staff of a Portuguese higher education institution.
performance assessment,academic profession,public administration reform