What is Happening to our Universities?

Ben Martin (SPRU/University of Sussex)

31 de maio de 2016, 14h00

Sala 1, CES-Coimbra


In recent decades, many universities have been moving in the direction of a more hierarchical and centralised structure, with top-down planning and reduced local autonomy for departments. Yet the management literature over this period has stressed the numerous benefits of flatter organisational structures, decentralisation and local autonomy for sections or departments. What might explain this paradox? And why have academics remained strangely quiet about this, meekly accepting their fate? The paper critically examines the dangers of centralised top-down management, increasingly bureaucratic procedures, teaching to a prescribed formula, and research driven by assessment and performance targets, illustrating these with a number of specific examples. It discusses a number of possible driving forces of these worrying developments, and concludes by asking whether academics may be in danger of suffering the fate of the boiled frog.

Nota biográfica

Ben Martin is Professor of Science and Technology Policy Studies at SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex), where he served as Director from 1997 to 2004. He is also Associate Fellow, Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), and Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School.
He has carried out research for over 30 years in the field of science policy. His work has been very influential in topics such as techniques for the evaluation of scientific laboratories and of research programmes, comparisons of national scientific performance, pioneering the notion of ‘foresight’ as a tool for looking into the longer-term future of science and technology with the aim of identifying areas of strategic research and emerging generic technologies. He led the SPRU team that produced the influential review for HM Treasury on the benefits from government funding of basic research. More recently, he has carried out research on the changing nature and role of the university, on the impact of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and on the evolution of the field of science policy and innovation studies.
He was awarded the Derek de Solla Price Medal for Science Studies in 1997.
He has been apointed to several advisory positions in the UK and abroad, such as as a member of the Steering Group for the UK Foresight Programme from 1993 to 2000, as Deputy Chair of the EU High-Level Expert Group advising the European Commission on the potential benefits of establishing a European Research Council, as a member of the Royal Society ‘Fruits of Curiosity’ Advisory Group, or as Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Since 2004, he has been Editor of Research Policy.
The study he is presenting, 'What is happening to our Universities?', has received wide dissemination, namely in the THES (

Actividade organizada pelo Programa de Doutoramento 'Governação, Conhecimento e Inovação'.