The SSCI Syndrome in Higher Education: A Local or Global Phenomenon by Chuing Prudence Chou (review)
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Reviewed by
Chuing Prudence Chou. The SSCI Syndrome in Higher Education: A Local or Global Phenomenon. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2014. 176 pp. Hardcover: $99.00. ISBN 978-94-6209-406-2.

In recent decades, the forces of globalization and neoliberal economic ideology have permeated every aspect of society, and higher education is by no means immune to these trends. The resulting competition for world university rankings has been a catalyst for far-reaching educational policy reforms affecting academia throughout the world.

Chuing Prudence Chou’s The SSCI Syndrome in Higher Education: A Local or Global Phenomenon focuses on how governments and universities have begun implementing new systems for performance evaluation based solely on English language- and Western-centric quantitative indicators of research publication output. In particular, it examines the justifications for these policies, their impacts, the challenges confronted by relevant actors, and the emergence of pockets of resistance to the “SSCI syndrome” of the title.

Given its widespread use, the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) has become the genericized term referring to all of the various international publication indices used for performance evaluation. This SSCI syndrome can be understood as a specific manifestation of the more general “publish or perish” academic culture. It is the aggregate of observable impacts of this culture and related policies on discourses, norms, and practices in academia. Taiwan, as the primary case study featured in the book, is not alone in its struggle. Adapting higher education to the pervasive forces of globalization and the market economy has implications for policymakers and educators worldwide. As the title suggests, each chapter in the text links the Taiwanese situation to that of academia.

The book’s structure consists of an editor’s preface followed by nine unnumbered chapters written by scholars from East Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The editor, Chuing Prudence Chou, is an established veteran in the field of comparative international education who has published frequently during the policy reform process of the past two decades. Her preface examines the global context of higher education reforms and sets the foundation for the subsequent chapters. While it highlights many aspects of the global applicability of the SSCI syndrome (pp. vii–xi), a thorough reading of the remainder of the text reveals that the list may be incomplete. The preface concludes with a brief overview of the nine chapters that follow (pp. xi–xv).

The first chapter, written by Ka Ho Mok, Chair Professor of Comparative Policy and concurrently Vice President and Director of the Centre for Greater China Studies of The Hong Kong Institute of Education, chronicles the process of Taiwanese higher education reform and notes examples of other countries that have implemented similar policy reforms (pp. 1–8). It then presents empirical data based on surveys of faculty, painting a general picture of how the impacts of the educational reforms—in particular, the new international indicators for assessing research performance—are perceived by professors (pp. 8–17). [End Page 326]

In the second chapter, Huei-Huang Wang, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Soochow University in Taiwan, identifies and explores the pros and cons of the two major systems used for research performance evaluations internationally: peer-based and bibliometric (pp. 25–29). The chapter then compares the evaluation procedures and structure of academic networks in three country case studies: the United States, Japan, and Taiwan (pp. 30–35).

It concludes that neither system of evaluation will solve the real crises facing Taiwanese academia, including increasing fragmentation and factionalism and a lack of homegrown academic theories, methodologies, and knowledge. It also expresses doubt about the intended benefits of quantitative performance evaluations for universities, such as higher quality research, equal opportunities for research achievement and recognition, and international attractiveness.

The third chapter, by Jason Chih-Yu Chan, Professor in the College of Education and Dean of Academic Affairs at National Chengchi University, and Chia-Nian Lee, Head of Student Affairs at Phor Tay High School in Malaysia, consists of a disjointed exploration of four loosely related issues: the inherent bias of quantification; the obsession with global rankings, including those other than for universities; the reinforcement of social and...


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