The business of teaching and learning

an accounting perspective

in Learning and Teaching
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A feature of globalisation is encouragement of universities to become more businesslike, including adoption of the type of accounting routines and regulations used by businesses. The question debated in higher education policy research is whether this focus on being businesslike is compatible with the statutory public benefit obligations of universities. This question is addressed from a financial-management perspective, drawing on Max Weber's discussion of the effects of accounting in business, governmental and not-for-profit organisations. 1 His approach is applied to three ideal-typical universities, focussing on differences in legal terms of reference and sources of funding. The article argues that the proposed reforms of public-sector accounting will make it difficult (if not impossible) to ascertain whether the publicbenefit aims of not-for-profit universities have been achieved. In addition, once installed, the business systems of accounting will encourage pecuniary rationality at the expense of the traditional value rationalities that ought to govern resource allocation in public-benefit organisations. The interaction between these effects introduces new risks, including the possibility that the controllers of universities may fail in their fiduciary obligations by wasting scarce resources on projects that, according to financial measures, appear profitable while neglecting those that have important public benefit and educational merit.

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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