1 Munster Technological University (IRELAND)
2 South East Technological University (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Page: 172 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-45476-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2022.0071
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
This research extends our understanding of engagement activity in higher education institutions (HEIs) and underlines the difficulties that may arise when introducing a national performance funding system. The funding system reviewed was designed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in Ireland and aimed to allow HEIs select measures that best represented their activity. The HEI did not prescribe measures or parameters rather it encouraged HEIs to select measures that best represented their engagement. Once the HEI selected its measures, a compact outlining targets in each measure was agreed between the HEI and HEA. After implementation 10% of the government funding to HEIs would be based on achieving the targets agreed.

The research, based on a single exploratory case study, uses semi-structured interviews with heads of department within the HEI, to gather primary data regarding external stakeholder engagement and the introduction of the performance funding system.

The findings show that the HEI engages extensively with external stakeholders and that these stakeholders and the institutional environment influence these interactions. However, there is decoupling of design and measurement as the measures selected by the case HEI do not represent their activity. A decoupled system is one where work processes reflect indeterminate task technologies, without reflecting formal structure or the institutional environment, where actual organisational structures and procedures may be decoupled from external expectations, or compromised in order to avoid dysfunction and a loss of legitimacy. In this research, decoupling is observed in the initial establishment of the engagement measurement system, in the selection of measures, and subsequently in the measurement of stakeholder engagement activity. The HEI has performed what the decoupling literature describes as regulatory ritualism: reports were produced, assessments performed, performance indicators reported, but in a manner that is disconnected from the practices of the institution.

This paper highlights the need for awareness of decoupling when establishing a performance measurement system and it has implications for HE policy makers and practitioners in HEIs attempting to benchmark and improve their own engagement activity.
Performance measurement, Engagement, Stakeholders, Higher Education Institutions, Decoupling.