Rational and symbolic uses of performance measurement: experiences from Polish universities

Dorota Dobija, Anna Maria Gorska, Giuseppe Grossi, Wojciech Strzelczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to facilitate a deeper understanding of the uses and users of performance measurement (PM) in the university context. Design/methodology/approach Empirical data were gathered from four universities. This approach allows for a multilevel and comparative analysis based on the neo-institutional theory. The results are discussed alongside interdisciplinary literature on the use of PM in the public sector. Findings PM practices at universities have become increasingly popular on institutional, organisational and individual levels. The results indicate that different types of PM are used in universities and that the extent, and scope of PM used by various actors differ. Universities often use PM in a ceremonial and symbolic manner, with the aim of legitimising themselves externally as research-oriented institutions. The use of PM depends on both, exogenous factors (such as isomorphic pressures) and endogenous factors related to the different responses of organisations and individual actors (university managers, and academics). However, the analysis at the internal level reveals different attitudes and some resistance to the use of such kinds of PM. In universities with a local focus, the use of PM for rational decision-making is generally loosely coupled with the reporting performance for external accountability purposes. Moreover, the internal use of PM can be also symbolic. Originality/value The authors assume that the use of PM depends on a number of exogenous and endogenous factors. PM uses and users are discussed in the specific context of the higher education system in Poland. The four business school cases facilitate a comparative analysis of the similarities and differences in terms of the uses and users of PM in the context of internationally and locally oriented universities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-781
Number of pages31
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Economics and Business (502)


  • Institutional theory
  • Performance measurement
  • Poland
  • Universities
  • Users
  • Uses


Dive into the research topics of 'Rational and symbolic uses of performance measurement: experiences from Polish universities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this