The 'Disciplinary Effect' of the Performance-based Research Fund Process in New Zealand

Author: Buckle, Robert A.; Creedy, John

Date: 2019

Type: Scholarly text

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Victoria University of Wellington


This paper examines how the research quality of academic disciplines within New Zealand universities has evolved since the first Performance-based Research Fund (PBRF) assessment in 2003. The analysis uses a database consisting of an anonymous ‘quality category’ (QC) for each person assessed in the 2003 and 2012 PBRF assessment rounds. Individual researchers are assigned to academic discipline groups and the paper measures the distribution of researchers across disciplines and the discipline composition of universities. There has been little change in the distribution and their concentration within and across universities. However, exceptions are increases in the shares of medicine and agriculture, and a reduction in the share of education. Research Average Quality Scores are derived for discipline groups. All groups substantially increased their scores. Transition matrices show that there are significant differences in the dynamics of the various disciplines during the PBRF process. The paper shows that changes in the discipline composition of universities explains little of the proportional improvement of research quality among New Zealand universities.

Subjects: Academic disciplines, Education policy, New Zealand universities, Performance-based Research Fund, Productivity, Research, Transitions