Students as consumers?: An institutional field-level analysis of the construction of performance measurement practices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - To examine the political and institutional processes surrounding the construction of consumer-orientated performance measurement (PM) practices in the Swedish university sector. Design/methodology/approach - A longitudinal case study in the Swedish university sector drawing on neo-institutional sociology (NIS) and adopting an organisational field-level perspective. Findings - Particular attention is paid to the political interplay between different actors competing to dominate the representation of student interests in this organisational field, the strategic discourses invoked to legitimise their actions and the unfolding (re-)construction of PM practices, but also how this interplay is conditioned by institutionalised structures and existing power relationships. The findings suggest that the relative inertia in developing more consumer-orientated PM is due in large part to the difficulties for an emerging challenger in constructing a legitimate power base enabling it to fully exploit institutional inconsistencies and the ability of a dominant incumbent organisation to accommodate seemingly incompatible institutional pressures. Originality/value - The study provides deeper and more process-orientated insights into the problems of translating consumerist notions into public sector PM practices than much prior research on the topic and explains this with reference to macro- rather than micro-level (intra-organisational) processes. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-563
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Consumerism
  • Performance measures
  • Public sector reform
  • Students
  • Sweden
  • Universities


Dive into the research topics of 'Students as consumers?: An institutional field-level analysis of the construction of performance measurement practices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this