1 Cork Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
2 Waterford Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 26-36
ISBN: 978-84-697-9480-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2018.1004
Conference name: 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2018
Location: Valencia, Spain
Engagement implies thoughtful interaction with the world external to the HEI and has been described using words such as partnering, consulting, mutual benefit, communication, getting the word out, community/neighbours, and philanthropy. Stakeholders represent any group or individual who can affect or are affected by the achievement of an organisation. Internal stakeholders may include staff and students while external stakeholders having an interest in, and engaging with HEIs, include government and funding agencies, other HEIs, professional bodies, alumni, potential students, businesses, and community groups. The types of engagement can be categorised as engaging for graduate formation; for workforce development; for research and innovation; for social cohesion; for the economic health of the region; to justify funding and legitimacy; and to broaden access and compete for students. Very little research has hitherto been conducted into HEI-stakeholder engagement in Ireland and the influences on these relationships. This research explores the external stakeholders with whom Irish HEIs engage and the reasons why they engage.

This study draws on institutional and stakeholder theories and considers the impact of institutional isomorphism and stakeholder salience on HEI engagement with external stakeholders. Institutional theory describes isomorphism as the way in which organisations become homogeneous with the environment in which they operate. Three mechanisms triggering institutional isomorphism are proposed by institutional theory: coercive, mimetic, and normative. HEIs cannot attend to all actual or potential claims on their organisation from the wide range of external stakeholders, hence stakeholder salience is significant. Stakeholder salience determines the degree to which the claims of stakeholders are given priority and is based on three attributes: stakeholder power to influence the organisation, the legitimacy of the stakeholder claim on the organisation, and the degree of urgency of the stakeholder claim. Stakeholders can mediate institutional effects by acting as either buffers or amplifiers of institutional influences. Conversely institutions can mediate stakeholder effects by legitimating a stakeholder’s claim.

This research adopts a qualitative approach using an exploratory case study. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis. The interviews were conducted with Heads of Department and top managers in the case HEI to assess and analyse their opinions, perspectives, attitudes and beliefs. Documents analysed include legislation, correspondence between the case HEI and the Higher Education Authority and other publicly available material.

The results confirm that external stakeholder engagement is influenced by institutional, macro factors such as policy, culture and norms as well as stakeholder proximate factors such as local employer needs. The study highlights the wide variety of external stakeholders with whom the case HEI engages and proposes that the combined stakeholder and institutional influences have determined the breadth of engagement activity and the resulting types of engagement.
Higher Education, Stakeholders, isomorphism, new institutional sociology.