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Ambiguities in university performance measurement: the Finnish case
University of Turku, Finland.
University of Turku, Finland.
Kristianstad University.
2015 (English)In: Paper presented at 23rd Nordic Academy of Management Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 12-14, 2015, Nordic Academy of Management , 2015Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, performance measurement (PM) tools and practices have been implemented at literally hundreds of universities in Western countries. Accordingly, PM practices have been adopted in practice in all countries infected by New Public Management (NPM) doctrine. The seemingly well-intentioned reforms—designed to improve universities’ economy, efficiency and effectiveness—have led to widespread criticism among scholars, ranging from fierce resistance and loud outbursts  to somewhat more analytical and theoretical arguments. Most scholars who study university management in general and university PM systems in particular have recognized there are many more cons than pros in the recent developments. Scholars see PM systems in universities as structures of attention rather than formal systems of accountability.

This study reports empirical findings for university PM in Finland and concentrates on the problems of measuring quality aspects in universities and in academic work. As in many other Western countries, the Finnish higher education sector has been broadly affected by NPM-related reforms. However, Finnish universities are especially responsive to new government reforms since, by law, all universities are publicly owned and administered.

The principal empirical data of this study were gathered in 2010 and 2012 from 12 faculties in three Finnish multidisciplinary universities. The data were collected with an Internet-based survey questionnaire sent to all employees in the chosen faculties. The answers to the following open-survey question were used as the principal date: “What kind of quantitative and qualitative indicators should be used to assess performance in universities?”

This study reports which PM indicators Finnish university personnel would prefer in their own work in terms of quality and quantity, and how the Finnish Ministry of Education & Culture (MOE) has implemented quality aspects in the ministry’s PM system. The MOE’s PM systems, which define the actual amount of funding an individual university receives, have largely been copied by individual universities’ and faculties’ internal PM systems that evaluate academics’ performance.

In light of the responses, the issue of qualitative and quantitative measurements is crucial. The current indicators set by the MOE are mainly quantitative, which seems to upset many. In the responses, the problems of university PM are highlighted. For instance, different degrees or research activities are almost impossible to measure together, but in the Finnish PM system, they are, in a way that may seem unproblematic for someone not familiar with the realities of university work. In reality, the same performance criteria might demand very different types of resources in different faculties. The funding scheme for universities is vast and complicated, and different types of outputs and their respective indicators are only loosely coupled with different types of funding.

If we look more closely at the MOE’s university funding scheme, roughly speaking, all quality indicators are quantitative. Although the original purpose of the University Act was to provide independence to individual universities to define their own practices and policies, curiously it seems that the university reforms have, instead, increased homogeneity in PM practices in the Finnish university field.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Nordic Academy of Management , 2015.
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-68774OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-68774DiVA, id: diva2:1157609
Conference
23rd Nordic Academy of Management Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 12-14, 2015
Available from: 2017-11-16 Created: 2017-11-16 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved

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Kallio, Tomi J.

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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