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It’s time for PBRF to go

As results of the fourth Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) Quality Evaluation round are released, the Tertiary Education Union is repeating its call for PBRF to be scrapped.

National President, Michael Gilchrist, says the major review of the PBRF planned by the government provides the opportunity to refocus New Zealand’s universities, wānanga, and polytechnics on delivering high quality research. ‘Unfortunately, there is currently far too much focus on rankings in institutional league tables.’

‘Initially the performance approach increased the emphasis on research in tertiary institutions. But after four gruelling rounds of individual assessments those benefits are well past. All that remains are the negative aspects: high compliance costs and administrative overheads; a six yearly treadmill for staff; intrusive processes; gaming of the system; and misuse of results,’ says Gilchrist.

Gilchrist notes that there has been a significant distortion of normal research activity.

“The imperative to publish in a select few international journals has caused a marked reduction in specialised and locally based research. We urgently need that research to meet the unique challenges our country faces in the future and advance the wellbeing of all.”

“The flaws are so great in this way of evaluating research quality and achievements that it’s time to start afresh. Tinkering around the edges won’t cut it.’

Jenny Salesa is heading a review of this performance funding approach – one that was actually put in place by an earlier Labour government. The TEU has already begun contributing to this review.

In June the union will release a report which outlines what academics think of the current system. That report will also suggest better ways to ensure we put public funds into quality research that contributes to social, scientific, and human advancement.

Gilchrist says “Rigorous peer review systems, institutional incentives for performance and the powerful curiosity and research ethos of our academics already provide many guarantees of research quality and productivity.

The government’s Education Conversation provides an opportunity for us collectively to work out more productive ways to allocate funding and improve research in our universities, wānanga, and polytechnics.

“We can do so much better. The PBRF has to go.”


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