The New Public Management and Post-Secondary Institutions: the Evolution of the Accountability Regime of Ontario Universities
thesisposted on 08.06.2021, 12:23 by Sabita Ramlal
The adoption of New Public Management (NPM) principles, practices and values in the Ontario public sector was one phase in the evolution of the accountability regime for universities and the post-secondary education (PSE) sector since the early 1990s. New Public Management advocates the adoption of private sector management principles and practices in the public service that re-defines citizens as customers, and emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness. It also places a high value on transparency and accountability to government. The research found that the evolution of the accountability regime for universities in Ontario was significantly influenced by NPM which has meant growing demands for universities to demonstrate value for money invested by government through institutional and system level performance measures and results. The findings in the comparative analysis of public policy and administrative reform of higher education in other jurisdictions show that the impact of NPM was even greater in the jurisdictions reviewed than in Ontario. The information and insights gathered from key informants in the PSE sector support the central argument and demonstrate the differing views on changes in the accountability regime and the challenges facing the PSE sector as a result of NPM-influenced reforms. The research also reveals a multiplicity of NPM-inspired accountability mechanisms: financial compliance focusing on administrative issues; voluntary accountability initiatives; and government-mandated performance measurement in terms of achievement of government’s policy goals of increased quality, access, and accountability. The changing nature of the accountability regime demonstrated an effort by the government to assert itself over autonomous entities over which it had very little control since the 19th century. It was concluded that the changes made by government in the accountability regime while not dramatic but incremental has had some impact in terms of holding universities more accountable. This incremental change in the accountability regime over several governments resulted in a disconnected web of accountability mechanisms which was not always effective. The paper concludes that there is a need for a rationalisation of the accountability framework that provides accountability to government and taxpayers without the costly burden of meaningless performance measurement and reporting.