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Human capital loss in an academic performance measurement system

Ann Martin-Sardesai (School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, Sydney, Australia)
James Guthrie (Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 8 January 2018




The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions of academic human capital (HC) towards a university’s research performance measurement system (PMS), in response to a national research assessment exercise (RAE).


This paper draws on a subset of the data from a large mixed method case study research project about the impact of ERA on an Australian public sector university.


The findings reveal that the research PMSs were designed, implemented and used as a tool to measure and manage the research performance of HC within the university. The case study university performed well in the RAE. However, this also led to several unintended consequences in the form of fear and anxiety, gaming and strategic initiatives, a focus on quantity and not the quality of research, and increased workload, which led to a loss in the stock of HC.

Practical implications

This empirical evidence can inform governments and policy makers of the unintended consequences of government research evaluations on academic HC. University managers could improve the design of HC management systems by not only measuring academic HC performance, but also providing training and resources to enhance, support and maintain the overall well-being of academics.


This study provides insights regarding the connection between a university’s PMS and academic HC and contributes to the academic literature on intellectual capital and PMSs.



Martin-Sardesai, A. and Guthrie, J. (2018), "Human capital loss in an academic performance measurement system", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 53-70.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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