Grafting New Values into Public Institutions by Reforming the Accounting System: Lessons Learned from the Italian Higher Education System

  •  Guido Modugno    
  •  Ferdinando Di Carlo    
  •  Manuela Lucchese    
  •  Tommaso Agasisti    


The paper wants to highlight some accounting practices in the early stage of the adoption of accrual accounting in Higher Education Institutions. The accounting reform was one of the core aspects of a process of enforced hybridization of HE institutions. Exogenous and endogenous (organizational) issues emerge, that undermine transparency and comparability of accounting information. Based on structured interviews in 14 Italian universities, the paper provides evidences of the main aspects that hinder the transparency and the comparability of accounting information with the risk to deprive the new accounting rules of their potential for change. Resistance to change could be observed, resulting in a partial or distorted adoption of the new accounting rules: some practices, in particular, aimed at safeguarding the interests of a particular group. The paper propitiates further research based on case studies aiming at understanding how public organizations tend to design internal accounting procedures that preserve the prerogatives of particular groups within the organization. The research overturns the rhetoric of the adoption of managerial practices for the enhancement of efficiency, effectiveness and economy by showing how organizations shape these practices in order to keep the status quo unchanged.

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