Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

How to Improve Performance of Public Universities? a Strategic Management Approach

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

How to Improve Performance of Public Universities? a Strategic Management Approach

Article excerpt


Since the '80s, the need of performance management systems able to strengthen strategic and management controls was even stronger, especially in the field of higher education, and it was often a government request (Gaither et al., 1994; Johnes, 1996). In that years, for example, the British Government highlighted the need of measuring performance of higher education institutions and, in particular, the need of performance indicators. Furthermore, in 1985, the so called "Jarratt Report" underlined the need of evaluating the efficiency of the UK higher education system through better performance measurement systems (Ball and Wilkinson, 1994).

In 1999, the Bologna process began in many European States and also in Italy, in which it started with the Ministerial Decree n. 509/99 and continued with the Ministerial Decree 270/04. This was a harmonization process of higher education systems that wanted to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA). In Italy, this was only the first step for a series of legislative actions with the aim of improving performance management systems. The decree n. 150/09 introduced for the first time the word "performance" in the Italian justice system for public administrations evaluation. With specific reference to universities, it is important to mention the Law n. 240/10 that had the aim of improving the quality and efficiency of the higher education system. At present the ANVUR (National Agency for Evaluation of the University system and Research) has the task of evaluating the quality of Italian universities activities.

Performance management and measurement are considered among the management levers that could be used to enhance the implementation and control of strategies (Poister and Streib, 1999: 311-312). Recent strategic management literature evidences the lack of studies about the linkage between strategic management, on the one hand, and public administrations results, on the other hand (Bryson, Berry and Yang, 2010; Poister, Pitts and Edwards, 2010). In fact, literature evidences the need of empirical analysis that test whether strategic management could improve organizational performance, in particular in terms of outcomes.

That being stated, the aim of the paper was twofold. Firstly, we examined the quality of performance measurement systems of public universities. Secondly, we used this management lever to test, by way of a multiple regression analysis, whether strategic planning and implementation could improve public organizations performance (in terms of outcomes).

It is well-known that when public sector performance (Bouckaert and Halligan, 2008) is analyzed at Country levels, with the aim of comparing performance of different geographical areas (Aghion et al, 2010), the focus is on "macro performance". The "meso performance" perspective refers to specific policy fields (e.g. education, health, etc.) or to public/private networks. The paper examined results of single universities, and therefore the performance was analyzed at "micro level" (organizational performance).

The results showed an improvement in the quality of performance measurement systems of public universities in the period considered and a positive impact of strategic management on public universities results. The research could help public managers to understand the most important criticalities of performance measurement systems of public universities in order to improve their effectiveness and the importance of strategic planning, implementation and control to gain better results.


The Strategic Management Approach

Before the '80s, the strategic management literature focused especially on strategic planning. However, strategic planning and strategic management cannot be used as synonyms. As Bryson, Edwards and Slyke (2018) highlight, ?Strategic planning can be and often is part of the broader practice of strategic management that links planning with implementation on an ongoing basis? …

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