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Commodification of education and academic labour: Using the balanced scorecard in a university setting
Critical Perspectives on Accounting (2002)
  • Umesh Sharma, University of Waikato
  • Stewart Lawrence
he dissatisfaction with the financial performance of public enterprises in the 1980s led governments to embrace the rhetoric of free markets, and commercialize many state sector activities. This movement has included universities. In many countries, the state began reducing financial support for higher education, encouraged competition and demanded financial self-dependency. A new managerialism entered universities and ubiquitous management philosophies such as the total quality management (TQM) and the balanced scorecard (BSC) have been tested in some universities, such as the one described in this paper.Pressure upon unit cost has been accompanied and reinforced by the institution of quasi-market funding mechanisms. In the pursuit of business-like efficiency, performance targets and measures have been introduced to measure and evaluate the productivity of individual academics and their departments. The translation of public sector activities into private sector vocabulary calls for managers to re-present the organization in the appropriate economic terms. The BSC and TQM philosophies are central economic vocabularies that have been utilized by some public sector organizations.The paper utilizes Habermas’s critical theory of societal development to evaluate the incidence of TQM and BSC implementation in corporate universities. It argues that although the state presumes that market-based vocabularies like TQM and BSC promotes efficiency and effectiveness in organizations, through their application the very essence of education is jeopardized. The effect of these developments has seen a progressive commodification of students and academic labour. Treating education as a private good, and students as customers, is a constitutive re-ordering of university life, and potential degradation of its function in society.
  • balanced scorecard,
  • university education,
  • labour
Publication Date
Citation Information
Umesh Sharma and Stewart Lawrence. "Commodification of education and academic labour: Using the balanced scorecard in a university setting" Critical Perspectives on Accounting Vol. 13 Iss. 5/6 (2002)
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