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Balancing between accountability and autonomy: the impact and relevance of public steering mechanisms within higher education
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Organisation and Entrepreneurship. University of Vaasa, Finland.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4923-6706
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Management Accounting and Logistics. University of Turku, Finland.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8305-6699
Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, Finland.
University of Turku, Finland.
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2022 (English)In: Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management, ISSN 1096-3367, E-ISSN 1945-1814, Vol. 34, no 6, p. 46-68Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

This article studies the tensions between universities' accountability and autonomy in response to the demands of public steering mechanisms coordinating higher education institutions.

Design/methodology/approach

Demonstrating the tension between accountability and autonomy, the impact and relevance of public steering mechanisms coordinating higher education are studied via a survey with selected representative Finnish universities. The response rate was an exceptionally high 94%. In addition to the statistical analysis of the survey, open-ended questions were also analyzed to give a more in-depth understanding of the findings. The study uses paradox theory and institutional complexity as its theoretical lenses.

Findings

The empirical analysis of this study shows a considerable gap between the experienced impact and the experienced relevance of the steering mechanisms in higher education. The authors' further analysis of the open-ended data shows that indicator-based funding allocation has undermined the perceived university autonomy. The authors highlight the paradoxical tensions of university autonomy and higher education institutions' steering mechanisms' requirement for accountability. Finding an acceptable balance between accountability and institutional autonomy plays an important role in designing higher education policies.

Originality/value

The authors found that even if a steering mechanism is experienced as impactful, it is not necessarily considered relevant. One of the key aspects in understanding the reasons behind this mismatch is related to university autonomy. Most impactful steering mechanisms become considered less relevant because they also endanger institutional autonomy. In this sense, it could be expected that steering mechanisms should better balance accountability and autonomy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2022. Vol. 34, no 6, p. 46-68
Keywords [en]
Higher education development, Steering mechanisms, Paradox theory, Institutional complexity, Public funding, Universities
National Category
Public Administration Studies Economics and Business
Research subject
Economy, Ekonomistyrning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-106722DOI: 10.1108/JPBAFM-10-2020-0177ISI: 000680474800001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85111114119Local ID: 2021OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-106722DiVA, id: diva2:1590496
Available from: 2021-09-02 Created: 2021-09-02 Last updated: 2022-02-07Bibliographically approved

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Kallio, Tomi J.Kallio, Kirsi-Mari

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Department of Organisation and EntrepreneurshipDepartment of Management Accounting and Logistics
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