Academic Dystopia: Knowledge, Performativity and Tertiary Education
This will be my task in the present article. I examine developments in tertiary education and research policy in New Zealand, paying particular attention to the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) as an example of performativity, competition, and the commodification of knowledge in action. (In New Zealand the term tertiary education is employed to cover all postsecondary educational institutions and organizations, including universities, polytechnics, and private training establishments.) I argue that the trends evident in changes under the PBRF constitute a form of academic dystopia. The article begins with an overview of Lyotard’s position on knowledge, competition, and research in a computerized, postmodern world. I then assess the PBRF in the light of Lyotard’s ideas. I comment on the limiting language of outputs, discuss links between information, interpretation, and the unknown, and consider the impact of research assessment regimes on intellectual life.