Institutions have no right to individual PBRF scores

Posted By TEU on Jul 2, 2009 |

Tertiary Update Volume 12 Number 20

TEU’s submission to the Tertiary Education Commission on the reporting of PBRF scores concludes that tertiary institutions should not have access to either the quality categories or the component scores of individuals. It argues that only individuals themselves should have access to such data, and that institutions should receive only aggregated results.

In the 2003 and 2006 PBRF rounds, participating tertiary institutions were provided with their academic staffs’ individual quality categories. In the recent PBRF Sector Reference Group proceedings, some institutions have asked that they be provided with individuals’ component scores as well.

The TEU submission warns that TEC could leave itself open to challenges from individual researchers under the terms of the Privacy Act if it continues to allow individual results to tertiary institutions. Researchers, as employees, have no choice but to complete an evidence portfolio – refusal to do so could mean disciplinary action. Thus, any notion that an individual has ‘consented’ to the disclosure of their personal results to their employer is fallacious.

TEU president Tom Ryan says that use of private information in the manner that the TEC has been permitting also contradicts the very strict guidelines that researchers themselves must adhere to when undertaking their own research and disseminating data from human subjects.

“Any ethics committee presented with a research proposal that included distribution of personal information without properly informed consent would no doubt reject it, and rightly so.”

Dr Ryan believes the practice of releasing individual quality categories to tertiary institutions breaches privacy conventions, and has resulted in the use of this information far beyond the original intent of the designers of the PBRF system.

“It was supposed to be a way of determining the allocation of research funding to institutions and their parts. The practice of releasing individual results to employers needs to cease now before it gets further out of hand. Using PBRF data as a proxy for internal systems for assessing research capacity and performance is an abdication of management responsibilities and should not be permitted.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Pay rises needed now
  2. TEU leaders meet minister
  3. ‘Broke’ minister misses the point
  4. Pay equity rallies shame government
  5. Foreshore act not so sure
  6. Focus on research increases
  7. Aussie union sets 16% minimum for pay rise

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email:

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