Academic engagement with higher education research policy in Australia, and with education policy more generally, is in crisis. This time around, it is not just that our theoretical tools are blunt and irrelevant (Ball 1990), so are our politics. It seems our attention has been so consumed by ‘what is policy’ (Ball 1994a) and with challenging its claims to authority, that we have missed or ignored imperatives to engage with its production. Even though some have attempted contributions, for the most part we have been ‘coerced into an era of cooperation’. Getting ourselves out of this mess will take more than just better theories and new politics. It will require a degree of cooperation, to advance a theory and practice of policy engagement and to re-establish a field of education that resists the tendency to fragment and/or the temptation to defend itself ‘against’ policy. In this paper I attempt an assessment of where we are theoretically and politically with regard to education policy and where we need to look to find new forms of policy engagement. By way of illustration, I draw on examples from AARE (the Australian Association for Research in Education) and the Australian RQF (Research Quality Framework) although the analysis is by no means restricted to these.
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