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Conrath-Hargreaves, Annemarie/Wüstemann, Sonja (2019): Managing Multiple Institutional Logics and the Use of Accounting: Insights from a German Higher Education Institution, erscheint in: Abacus, forthcoming. 


This paper examines the use of accounting in managing the co-existence of different institutional logics in a German higher education institution (HEI), and its impact on the HEI. The study is of particular interest as the HEI studied pursued its own corporatization through a re-organization from a state into a foundation university. We show that this corporatization through the adoption of New Public Management related ideas leads to institutional complexity that arises from the co-existence of extant state and emergent business logics. Our study suggests that HEIs may deploy particular accounting practices shaped by business logic only superficially, so as to satisfy stakeholders such as governmental authorities in order to enhance their legitimacy following a self-imposed reform, while the operation of the HEI remains rooted in state logic. Specifically, the findings suggest that in the case of actual changes to the budgetary process arising through the corporatization and an emergent logic, failure to replace abandoned accounting practices shaped by a previously dominant logic, with equivalent practices adhering to either extant or emerging logic(s), may put the organization at risk. Overall, our study contributes to a better understanding of the dangers of an organizational response to institutional complexity, referred to as reactive decoupling, in the management of institutional complexity and points to its negative impact on organizations’ hybridization capability. 

Conrath-Hargreaves, Annemarie/Wüstemann, Sonja (2019): Multiple institutional logics and their impact on accounting in higher education: The case of a German foundation university, erscheint in: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32,


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how an Higher Education Institution’s (HEI) choice of undergoing a voluntary reorganisation, motivated by its own interest of increasing its autonomy, whilst also having to satisfy the government in order to maintain the level of public funding, impacts on the HEI’s accounting.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on the institutional logics perspective to present a single case study of a German HEI that chose to be reorganised from a public into a foundation university. Data were obtained using multiple data collection methods.

Findings: The findings suggest that organisational characteristics, which act as filters for institutional logics, play an important role for HEIs’ ability to increase not only their de jure, but also their de facto autonomy through self-motivated, rather than government imposed, reform processes.

Research limitations/implications: The paper is based on a single case study in a country-specific context, limiting the empirical generalisability of the findings.

Originality/value: Germany is not only one of the main nations exporting higher education, but its economy has also been recognised for its stability and development over the last decades. Nevertheless, Germany struggles in its transition to become a knowledge-based economy. Yet, research has so far tended to neglect educational reforms in Continental European countries, such as Germany. By addressing this gap in the literature, this paper is among the first to explore how reform processes shape accounting in German HEIs.

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