Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Society

Higher Education Institutions and Social Performance: Evidence from Public and Private Universities

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Society

Higher Education Institutions and Social Performance: Evidence from Public and Private Universities

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The paper proposes that universities should make social responsibility part of their triple bottom lines - economic, environment and social. The aim of the paper is to examine public and private universities' approach to social responsibilities in a developing country. 10 years of annual reports from 2000-2009 were obtained and scrutinised into social performance categories proposed by Puukka (2008): promotion of well-being; promotion of know-how; promotion of ownership and community involvement. The findings show that the two universities have responded differently to social responsibility. The more traditional public university which struggled to preserve its organizational identity focused its social responsibilities internally (towards existing students and staff) rather than towards the outside communities. It is interesting to note that the private university employed a very distinctive strategy by using social responsibility platforms to not only preserve its legitimacy but actually as part of its response to the ever-changing demands and pressures. These findings revealed that social responsibility was important to universities for survival, or at least for enhancing their legitimacy.

Keywords: Universities; Higher Education; Globalization; Social Performance; Challenges.

1. INTRODUCTION

Gone are the days when universities can depend entirely on government funding. In Malaysia, for instance, institutions of higher learning are under pressure to restructure and seek diverse sources of revenue instead of relying on state funding (Lee, 2004). Increasing globalization means that both public and private universities have to compete for local and international students by enhancing their international reputation and ranking. Universities have to be innovative and creative in their marketing strategies and entrepreneurial skills. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has recently been conceived as a marketing tool but is yet to be proven in the higher education industry. Leitão and Silva (2007) highlighted that the literature does not cover the importance of adopting a social responsibility strategy within universities. Some argue that universities should not be burdened with such responsibilities since the very reason for their existence is to meet the needs of the community at large. With the challenges at hand, it is interesting to examine whether universities will limit their social responsibilities. Do they view CSR as complementary to their "actual" social responsibility of producing knowledge workers for the country or as part of their marketing strategy?

Social performance (along with economic and environmental performance) is part of the "triple bottom line" of sustainability in higher education institutions, as recommended by Puukka (2008, Figure 1). She argued that implementing comprehensive sustainability policies and reporting on their economic, social and environmental outcomes is one way of making higher education institutions more accountable to their regional stakeholders and more responsive to the needs arising from the region. However, most existing research in CSR fails to take into account how universities cope with the development of CSR (Ahmad, 2012).

This paper provides an analysis of the evolution of social responsibility in times of stiff competition. The main premise is that social responsibility should not be sacrificed in the face of competition but rather must be intensified as part of an organization's marketing strategies to attract more students and to remain sustainable in the market. This paper is divided into five sections. The next sections provide the literature review and the research method. The following section the results of the analysis of the challenges faced by and social performance of Malaysian private and public universities, before the paper concludes.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

In Malaysia, higher education covers all post-secondary education leading to the award of certificates, diplomas and degrees. …

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