Excellence in university academic staff evaluation: a problematic reality?
Pat O’Connor and Clare O’Hagan
Department of Sociology and FESTA, University of Limerick, Ireland
This article is concerned with the macro-cultural ideal or institutional myth of excellence as defined and used in the evaluation of academic staff as part of an institutional logic. Such logics ‘prescribe what constitutes legitimate behaviour and provide taken-for-granted conceptions of what goals are appropriate and what means are legitimate to achieve these goals’ as stated by Pache and Santos Insead. In the case study university, this logic is reflected in the identification of ostensibly objective, gender-neutral key performance indicators of excellence. Lamont suggests that evaluation is necessarily subjective. Drawing on 23 qualitative interviews with those involved in such evaluation, this article looks at variation in the definition of excellence and in the evaluative practices in decision-making fora. It raises questions about the implications of this for gender inequality and for the myth of excellence and ultimately for the legitimacy of the organisation.
Keywords: excellence; gender; case study;