Academic surveillance and New Public Management

Managerialist models and practices are sweeping through universities internationally, overthrowing the collegiate system of professional organization by academics, and this wave has recently reached Ireland.

At DCU, discussions around one-size-fits-all academic workload frameworks have been couched in the language of cooperation and transparency among colleagues, along with the need to assert efficiency and demonstrate ‘value for money’ for external actors such as government, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the bailout troika, and the public.

However, this stimulating and insightful article, by Chris Lorenz of the University of Amsterdam, demonstrates that such frameworks operate a parasitic and distorted version of accountability and transparency, far removed from a spirit of real collegiality and openness.

The powerful and intensely bureaucratic New Public Management (NPM) movement is described as more suited to totalitarian regimes, characterized by Ulrich Beck as ‘McKinsey Stalinist’, in which management implementing massive surveillance of academic work is, Soviet-style, itself unaccountable and never questioned.

Rather than improving quality, NPM’s switch from professional trust to managerialist surveillance and obsessive emphasis on an ill-defined ‘efficiency’ in narrowly serving consumers is, says Lorenz, part of the McDonaldization of universities taking place in the context of free market dogmas.

  • Lorenz, C. 2012. If You’re So Smart, Why Are You under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management. Critical Inquiry [Online], 38(3), Available from:
  • Note: Critical Inquiry, published by The University of Chicago, is not held by DCU Library. The copyrighted article can be downloaded from JSTOR at the above link at a price of $4. A Google Scholar search will also provide a time-limited individual link (which cannot be copied here) to the pdf file provided by

John O’Sullivan

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