This article presents the findings of a project investigating the intended and unintended consequences of the contemporary performance-driven environment in the Australian higher education sector (AHES) focusing on the performance mechanisms used and the performance information required. It is argued that the establishment of a performance-driven, market-oriented university system in Australia has created a context in which fiscal and economic performance indicators have become dominant in understanding the 'performance' of the AHES and of individual universities' activities. This article analyses the AHES policy environment since the mid-1980s and outlines Australia's performance-based funding approach to universities. The contribution of universities to the nation's economy and the developing benchmarks and performance indicators (PIs) used for annual reporting at system and institutional levels are described. Several key issues are identified as arising from contemporary government policies. These issues, which form the basis for the suggested future research agenda, touch the core of university purposes and operations and need thought and resolution to ensure the long-term success of Australian public universities.
- Accounting change
- Australian higher education policy
- Knowledge economy
- New public management
- Performance information