AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Institutional Change and a New Zealand University 1985-2010

by Stephanie Lifah Chong

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Performance Management Systems; Management Control Change; New Public Management; Managerial Accounting; University Governance; Managerialism; New Institutional Theory; Higher Education
Record ID: 1302123
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4969


This thesis examines the impact of institutional change on a New Zealand university during the 25-year period up to 2010. The assessment of this impact is based upon a case study using interviews with the two main constituencies of institutional actor: academics and managers. The data collected are triangulated, or supported, by documentary evidence from publicly available and some private sources. The theoretical framework used to design the study and analyse the data is based upon Hargrave & Van de Ven (2006). The motivation for the study is widespread interest in the impact of changed government policies in New Zealand in higher education, especially around the beginning of the study period. The changed policies were based on concerns about increasing the participation rate in New Zealand universities and were implemented in the wake a then new philosophy represented by new public management theory (NPM). This was part of a worldwide movement, by western governments especially, to extract more returns and accountability from publicly owned assets. Criticism has been levelled at the application of NPM in universities in the last 10 years or so, on the basis that it is too managerial, commercial principles have been given too much weight and that it subverts the traditional function and ethic of higher education institutions. This thesis therefore contributes to the debate about the changed education policies and their effects, positive and negative on the university system. Much of the data is based on subjective opinions and recollections of managers and academics from within the university. Many of the participants have long histories with the university, some going back well before the beginning of the study period. The study is therefore in the tradition of qualitative, social meaning research, interpreting events that have taken place through the perceptions of the case study participants. The thesis argument is based on a narrative of change within and outside the university over the 25-year period. This narrative shows that with pressure from its main stakeholder, the New Zealand government, a more corporate-like, business oriented management style entered into the governance of the university during this time. There were two main stages in which these changes took place: the first, through to the turn of the century, characterised by large increases in participation rates in higher education reflecting institutional diffusion, globally, of the ideas of new public management theory; the second , following this, in which the effects of the changes in the first stage were reassessed in the light of the traditional role of the university in higher learning, reflecting institutional adaptation and more generally, concerns about legitimacy. In both stages, the part played by resource dependency and the guiding hand of government funding is apparent. Attention is directed at management control mechanisms in transmitting the changes, particularly those embedding quantitative assessments of output quality such as…