Effective performance management of professionals in knowledge based organisations has particular significance, but is an under researched area in the literature. Universities and colleges are knowledge based organisations especially dependent on the expertise, commitment and innovation of their staff. The paper analyses performance appraisal systems in universities and colleges with particular emphasis on staff perspectives and expectations. A brief history of performance appraisal in HE and FE is provided and related to issues of power, accountability and control. Academic staff from two business schools, together with a national sample of those teaching performance appraisal within CIPD professional programmes, were constituted as an “expert witness” group and their views sought on performance appraisal in their institutions. These data are used to develop a philosophy of performance appraisal for academic institutions, to assess the acceptability of particular performance criteria to academic staff, and to highlight the importance of staff involvement in appraisal system design.
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