Evaluation and control process in higher education institutions: a comparative analysis

Date01 July 2019
Published date01 July 2019
AuthorJoaquim Mourato,Maria Teresa Patrício
Subject MatterEducation,Educational evaluation/assessment
Evaluation and control process in
higher education institutions:
a comparative analysis
Joaquim Mourato
Centro de Investigação para Valorização dos Recursos End
and Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia (CIES-IUL),
Instituto Politécnico de Portalegre, Portalegre, Portugal, and
Maria Teresa Patrício
Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia (CIES-IUL),
ISCTE-Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to study the evaluation and control processes in the governance
systemsof higher educationinstitutions (HEIs).
Design/methodology/approach This study compares the performance and control processes of
strategic management in four HEIs in two European countries with binary systems Portugal and The
Netherlands. Using a case study approach, the authorsnd that HEIs with different missions and contexts
have performanceand control systems that are generally indistinguishable.
Findings The controllingstrategies in the public HEIs have taken on isomorphiccharacteristics based on
processesthat enhance competition, decentralizefunctions and solidify performance management.
Originality/value In this paper, the authors unpackagestrategicmanagement to focus on the forms of
controlassociated with performance evaluation.Performance evaluation is central to the managementprocess
and increasinglyassuming an integral part of the institutions identity and culture.
Keywords Performance management, Higher education, Key performance indicators,
Evaluation and control process
Paper type Case study
1. Introduction
Higher education institutions (HEI) have undergone signicant transformations in their
governance and organization(Bleiklie, 1998;Ferlie et al.,2008). Administrative structuresof
higher education have strengthened and increased in size and in formal competence
assuming greater responsibilitiesfor strategic planning and in day-to-day routines (Bleiklie,
In Europe, with the Bologna Declaration and the creation of the European Higher
Education Area, different national systems now share criteria and formal principles of
education. University diploma recognition in European member states has furthered
standardization. This path has brought the need to establish guidelines, evaluation and
The authors thank Ben Jongbloed, at CHEPS, UT, as well as the interviewees at the UT, Saxion UAS,
ISCTE-IUL and the IPP.
Financial support was provided from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and
supported by the European Social Fund (POCH).
process in
Received28 February 2019
Revised28 February 2019
Accepted26 April 2019
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.27 No. 3, 2019
pp. 269-284
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-02-2019-0019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
control systems and the entitiesto ensure its purpose. The European Association for Quality
Assurance in Higher Education and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in
the European HigherEducation Area have become established.
At the national level, public HEIs are confronting a complex eld of government
regulators, public and private nancial sources, a diversied student body and an internal
conguration of professors,assistants and professional staff. The eld is structured within a
competitive environment, while HEIs nd themselves generally struggling with decreased
funding. Consequently, many public HEIs nd themselves with the need to do more, with
less,a persistenttheme in public management (Hoggett, 1996).
Increased interest on the governance of HEIs comes with the need to unpackageor
open the black boxof the strategic management activities and undertakings. In this
article, we unpackagestrategic management to focus on the forms of control associated
with performance evaluation. Performance evaluation is central to the managementprocess
and increasingly assumingan integral part of the institutions identity and culture.
2. Literature review
2.1 Forms of performance evaluation and control in higher education institutions
There is a substantial and growing literature on the governance and management of HEIs
with signicant contributions from work on new public management (NPM) (Pollitt, 1993;
De Boer and Huisman, 1999;Maassen and van Vught, 2002;Ferlie et al., 2008). NPM ideas
and practices are characterizedby principles of managerialism, performance indicators and
efciency. However, stakeholders, both internal and external,demand other principles such
as transparency and accountability.
Integral to NPM principles has been the introduction of new forms and mechanisms of
evaluation and control. Audits, quality assessments, inspections, reviews, monitoring and
benchmarking have become commonplace occurrences in the logic of performance
evaluation. Performance evaluations have become pervasive, functioning at many different
levels, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative dimensions. They include formal
evaluations at the individual, department,center and organizational level. Comparisons and
competitions occur at the national, European and international level. Performance systems
have become highly recognizable. Some of the most renowned include the international
rankings or league tables, total quality management (TQM) and key performance
indicators (KPI). Performance systems have developed greater expertise and precision
digging into journal rankings (quartile rankings, citations) and classicatory schemes (h-
index, g-index and impact factors).
As HEIs face increasing prescriptiveand normative pressures they have turned to more
rational, managerial principles based on strategic planning and forms of personal
accountability, evaluationand efciency (Bleiklie, 1998). Teaching and research, traditional
missions of universities, are now makingroom for efciency and performance evaluationas
core values. The processes of monitoring and control are undertaken in HEIs have become
part of the general framework of management and key to ensuring the reproduction of the
Theories of new institutionalism are relevant to examine the rise of strategic
management in higher education. Several studies have signaled organizational conformity
tendencies or isomorphic characteristics of HEIs (Gornitzka, 1999;DiMaggio and Powell,
1983). New institutionalism theories argue that isomorphic tendencies of organizations
prevail as they model themselvesafter similar organizations perceived to be more successful
(DiMaggio and Powell,1983).

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