Accountability and professionalism: A contradiction in terms?

Ming Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
304 Downloads (Pure)


Declining trust in public services has led to increasing calls for higher education to be 'accountable' for the quality of its teaching and learning provision. However, increasing levels of quality evaluation have led academics to feel that their professionalism is under attack. Reflecting on this history and various dimensions of accountability, this paper seeks to interpret accountability by addressing two questions: What is accountability in higher education? How can it be related to academic professionalism? The paper argues that professionalism and accountability appear to be contradictory terms, but can exist simultaneously. If academics' moral and social responsibility becomes requisite to an enhanced social accounting for the quality of university teaching and learning, there could be less perceived tension between academic professionalism and accountability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-795
Number of pages11
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • accountability
  • distrust
  • higher education
  • professionalism
  • quality evaluation
  • responsibility


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