Stop with the performance pressure at universities, says KVAB


Administrative red tape and both research and publishing pressure at universities are hindering professors’ core jobs – to provide an education to students – says Flanders’ science and cultural advisory body

‘Service, not competition’

The Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts (KVAB) has emphasised the dangers of both red tape and performance pressure at universities. The experts said that Flemish universities focus too much on quantitative parameters.

“Financial resources and competition risk becoming goals in themselves,” the report read. This can lead to a weakening of both academic excellence and the bonds of trust between professors and institutions, KVAB said.

The authors cite multiple causes of ever-increasing administration and pressure to publish: the increase in research budgets, the growing international visibility of Flemish universities and the increase of the number of undergraduate students, PhDs and post-doctorates. The organisation also referenced New Public Management, a movement that stipulates that public institutions should be managed like private companies, which it cites as detrimental to university policy.

KVAB, an independent scientific and cultural society, said that professors can no longer carry out their assignments efficiently or creatively. “They should get the time, space and means to do what society expects from them: reliable education, thorough research and broad social service,” wrote the experts in the report.

The organisation recommends ensuring adequate basic funding for universities so they are less dependent on research funds. Further, professors need more support for administrative tasks, and the quality of research should be measured more on the basis of qualitative parameters. The provision of education and service to society must be given more weight in the package of tasks given to professors, it said.

Photo: Rob Stevens/KU Leuven