We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Performance-based university funding and the drive towards ‘institutional meritocracy’ in Italy.

Mateos-González, J.L. and Boliver, V. (2019) 'Performance-based university funding and the drive towards ‘institutional meritocracy’ in Italy.', British journal of sociology of education., 40 (2). pp. 145-158.


Many countries, including Italy, are increasingly managing their public higher education systems in accordance with the New Public Management principle that private-sector management practices improve efficiency and quality. A key mechanism has been the introduction of performance-based funding systems designed to reward ‘high-performing’ institutions and incentivise ‘lesser-performing’ institutions to improve. Instead of improving efficiency and quality across the board, however, we argue that performance-based funding systems naturalise longstanding structurally determined inequalities between institutions by recasting national higher education systems as competitive institutional meritocracies in which institutional inequalities are redefined as objective indicators of intrinsic ‘merit’ or worth. We illustrate how performance-based university funding systems naturalise pre-existing inequalities between universities drawing on the case of Italy, a country characterised by longstanding inequalities between its northern and southern regions which demonstrably impact on the apparent ‘performance’ of universities. The concept of institutional meritocracy captures the illusory nature of this performance game.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in British journal of sociology of education on 26 Nov 2018, available online:
Date accepted:04 July 2018
Date deposited:06 September 2018
Date of first online publication:26 November 2018
Date first made open access:26 May 2020

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar