From prestige to excellence

From Prestige to excellence - The fabrication of academic excellence
Coordinator : Catherine Paradeise

Lire le résumé du projet en français

Excellence has become the motto of academic evaluation. The measurement of excellence is largely based on analytical, impersonal and presumably non-contextual performance indicators. It contrasts sharply with judgments of prestige that do not open the black box of academic production and are based on social circulation of idiosyncratic and synthetic judgments made by social networks.
Research policy has analyzed extensively the rationales for policy making, asking what, why, how and with what results policy makers build incentives, with the purpose to enhance quality of academic institutions. Yet, it has rarely addressed the topic the other way around : how do academic collective actors, at their own organizational level, use resources and constraints provided by their various environments (national, regional, academic organization, departmental and individual levels to enhance their own reputation of quality.
This proposal aims at investigating 24 "prestigious" teaching and research departments in three disciplines (philosophy, chemistry, business administration) and 4 countries (France, Switzerland, Italy,Spain, USA - and China only for business education). For each department, we shall :

  • (1) sort out prestige judgments by peers and students, and excellence measured by scientometric indicators, as organizational outputs.
  • (2) Develop in-depth organizational investigations of resource building processes, both in terms of structural capital (positions in various disciplinary or institutional networks) and operational tools (internal and external coordination).
  • (3) describe specific inputs (human resources, equipments, budgets) created by these processes and their specific use (division of labor, job contents, curricula and research programs, etc.).
  • (4) describe and compare "local orders" patterns of relation between inputs, processes and outputs across countries, disciplines and academic organizations.
  • (5) Finally, analyze the impacts of organizational work on quality, and reciprocally, the impacts of quality measurement on organizational work.
This project involves about 20 researchers from 3 countries. It is supported by the French Research Council (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) for 4 years and the French (CNRS, Université Paris Est, Université de la Méditerranée, Ecole Française de Rome) Italian (CNR) and Swiss (OSPS -Université de Lausanne) institutions that afford salaries of the researchers and cover some additional costs.
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