Merlin Crossley, in CMM of 5 February 2022, provides a consideration of the topic “On the hunt for exceptional educators”. The article’s sub-heading states: “We want to establish a new type of upward spiral that recognises the important of exceptional university teaching”. It is difficult to imagine any readers having any serious issues with this worthy aspiration.

The author closes the article by stating:

“I am determined to show we care about local things, and not only the league tables and global prominence. We want to establish a new type of upward spiral that recognizes the importance of exceptional university teachers, and delivers the most inspired graduates to the community. That’s one way we can serve society.”

This is a noble aim as public universities, under their mission and vision statements, have no legitimate option but to act in the public interest and to serve and benefit society.

Unfortunately, global university rankings, to which Crossley refers are becoming an obsession in public universities around the globe, including Australia. Presently, there appears to be “an almost endless number of global rankings universities, dating from 2003, from which to choose” (Carnegie, 2021, p. 7) (1)

GUR are derived from the collection and use of numerous key performance indicators or metrics to measure phenomenon in organisations, otherwise known as accounting for performance measurement and management. Alas, “accounting is not a mere neutral, benign, technical practice” (Carnegie, Parker and Tsahuridu, 2021, p. 73) (2). What is happening in the higher education sector? More specifically, what are the impacts, whether intended or unintended, of this accounting for performance in public universities around the globe?

A dive into the changing culture of academic departments and schools will reveal that university academics are being urged, and increasingly unduly pressured, to achieve aggressive, often insurmountable KPI targets for research and innovation and for teaching and learning.

What is your viewpoint on this observation? Do you feel sufficiently free to express your viewpoint in the university workplace, if working therein, or are you rather holding back, especially recognising present academic job insecurity, such as in Australia, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic?

It is now common to be apprised of department/school heads posing questions during regular performance evaluations of academic staff, such as: “Why did you publish in this “A” ranked journal? Why didn’t you aspire to publish in an ” A* ” ranked journal instead? (3).

This form of “on the rise.” modern-day grilling of academic staff surely does not work effectively. For what it is worth, may it be suggested to contemplate posing an alternative question, such as: “what can the department/school do to support and assist you to aim to target your research in suitable top-ranked journals?”

These most highly ranked journals are relatively few, for instance, in Field of Research 1501: Accounting, Auditing, Accountability. Moreover, huge numbers of accounting academic staff in universities around the globe are being encouraged and pressured to publish in these exact same small number of debatably high-quality journals, set on the balance of university discipline and institutional politics.

This approach to performance measurement and management in public universities is not sustainable. It fosters, as stated earlier by the writer, “a concentration in our universities on ‘management by numbers’ or the micro-measurement performance approach” (CMM September 1 2021), rather than a more holistic macro-contributions to institutional management for the benefit of society.

The effects of this accounting on human behaviour and on organisational and social functioning and development are rarely adequately identified nor are they prone to be effectively evaluated. According to Carnegie and Parker (2021) in CMM (November 24), “the transformative (or corrupting) power of GURs has concerningly stimulated a self-interested corporate culture and dysfunctional behaviours on a scale not previously imagined in higher education. The warnings are clear”. Indeed  GUR are becoming a menace.

With this cautionary message now cleared, let’s us focus on going “on the hunt for exceptional educators” (Crossley, 2022). This may be envisaged, for instance, as public universities developing the most inspired graduates for society who are focused, both in their disciplines and beyond in their lives, on helping to shape a better world by means of enabling the flourishing of organisations, people and nature.

It is feared, however, that this cannot be done effectively, under present-day performance measurement mindsets, unless this can be copiously measured under the micro-measurement approach to university management for both research and innovation and teaching and learning, involving what may be increasingly described as the “KPI mania in higher education”.

Society as the rightful beneficiary of the services of public universities ought to be the adjudicator of exceptional university teaching and inspired graduates, such as of the genre identified above for shaping a better world.

Garry Carnegie, Emeritus Professor RMIT University

Endnotes [shown as (1), (2) and (3) above]

[1] Carnegie, G.D (2021), “Accounting 101: Redefining accounting for tomorrow”, Accounting Education, 17 December, available at:

2 Carnegie, G., Parker, L. and Tsahuridu, E. (2021), “It’s 2020: What is accounting today?”, Australian Accounting Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 65-73, see:

3 These questions are based on the use of the Australian Business Deans Council (ABDC) rankings classification system in both Australia and New Zealand.


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