Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Agency Relations and Managed Performance in Public Universities in Uganda

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Agency Relations and Managed Performance in Public Universities in Uganda

Article excerpt


Public universities and other tertiary institutions in Uganda have faced significant challenges during recent years. These institutions have found themselves in an increasingly competitive environment where there are fewer traditional students available to attend them (Ford, 1990). At the same time, government assistance to students, through grants, has been sharply reduced (Oslon, 2000). Furthermore, there are other environmental changes such as the need to provide costly technological support for the education of the students. These public universities also have to operate as profit making organisations for sustainability, making them both public and private institutions simultaneously (Mamdani, 2007). This results in the commercialisation of academic programmes focussed on mass education as opposed to elite education. The National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) Report (2011) showed that between 2006 and 2010, the number of universities increased from 26 to 29, a percentage of 14%. Of these 29 universities, 5 were public whilst 24 were private. The government owned and funded the public universities whilst the private universities were the property of individuals or organisations.

According to Kitamirike (2008), the shiftto mass education has eroded the main goal of universities, which was to increase the institutional flexibility and build productive and adaptive capacity in terms of quality services and service delivery, particularly regarding teaching and research. Consequently, student demonstrations against poor quality services have become common events at public university campuses (Businge, 2009).

There is a need for managers to focus not only on the economic activity of producing goods and services but also to realise that the true nature of a university is, like other organisations, a community of humans (De Geus, 1997, as cited in Cutting & Kouzmin, 2000). Managers of these universities (agents) are appointed by the Ministry of Education (principal) to run the institutions on behalf of the government, but in many instances they have failed to deliver results as expected. According to Jensen and Meckling (1976), managers of organisations act on their own behalf rather than that of the owners. Jassim, Dexter and Sindhu (1988) also indicated that managers substitute their own interests in place of the owners. This occurs because managers possess more information about the firm and control the election procedure of the board members. This is a phenomenon called an agency problem. An 'agency problem' exists when managers own less than 100% of the firm (Jensen & Meckling, 1976). This observation is contrary to what happens in public universities, where managers have no ownership and, thus, can shiftpart of the cost associated with decisions made in their own interest. Yet, universities require large amounts of capital for research, development, and production facilities for survival (Jassim et al., 1988). The main objective of universities is to conduct research and to create and disseminate knowledge.

However, according to the National Council of Higher Education Report (2011), donors fund most of the research that is undertaken in public universities. The report further indicates that in 2010-2011 a sum of USh 93 200 000.00 Uganda shillings was released out of the USh 135 899 000.00, which was voted by Parliament in that year.

This amount could only fund 3 research proposals out of the 57 which were presented to the National Council for Higher Education for funding. Unless the problem of funding is adequately addressed by the state and other stakeholders, the delivery of quality services in public universities in Uganda will be untenable. This article argues for an employeremployee relationship vested in the agency relations that should facilitate client-oriented quality service delivery. Such a relationship is either lacking or remains in early stages in public universities, for most developing countries and Uganda in particular. …

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