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Governing by numbers: audit culture and contemporary tales of universities’ accountability

Special issue call for papers from Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

Guest editors

Giuseppe Grossi (Kristianstad University, Sweden), [email protected]
Daniela Argento (Kristianstad University, Sweden), [email protected]
Dorota Dobija (Kozminski University, Poland), [email protected]


Recent decades have witnessed the increasing globalization, corporatization and hybridization of universities. As academics, professionals and students move across national boundaries, international rankings and ratings of universities have become widespread and influential, while various teaching and research measurement systems continue to be developed and applied. Since the 1990s, a radical growth of new managerial models, methods and “calculative technologies” (i.e. mission statements, output performance indicators, annual staff reviews, etc.) has aimed at enhancing performance and assuring quality of research and teaching. It has been also observed that teaching and research performance are now being quantified (Roberts, 2004; ter Bogt and Scapens, 2012; Kallio et al., 2017) more than ever before.

Scholars have focused on the reasons for the metamorphosis of universities into “transnational corporate universities”. The diffusion of the “audit culture” and new bureaucratic mechanisms designed to render the universities more accountable, manageable, efficient and visible through performance measures has been termed “coercive commensurability” or “tyranny of numbers” (Brenneis, Shore and Wright, 2005). The new accounting models of accountability have in several cases introduced new internal relations of power between academics and managers altering historically established roles and equilibria.

The effects of the “audit culture” and “calculative technologies” on academics, managers and other university stakeholders are significantly under-investigated from accounting and accountability perspectives. Through this Special Issue, we hope to reveal the complications surrounding the emerging issues within the complex settings of “hybrid” universities operating at the intersection of the market and state logics.

Topics for submission

We encourage submissions, based on case studies and other qualitative methodologies, in different contexts and from scholars across disciplines. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following issues:

  • Which (and how) accounting and accountability challenges are influenced by the institutional changes in the high education field (e.g. the “leaking” of external funds, competition, rankings, ratings, public value and accountability)?
  • How do internal and external university stakeholders use their accounting and accountability models?
  • How do academics cope with the new “audit culture” and “calculative technologies” of hybrid universities?
  • What are the effects for academics of new forms of control and accountability?
  • How does the new “audit culture” challenge the role of professionals in universities?
  • What are the main aspects of external and internal auditing within the context of universities?
  • How can empirical studies on “audit culture” and “calculative technologies” in the academia contribute to accounting and accountability theories?

Special Issue Workshop

To help authors prepare their manuscripts for submission, a Special Issue Workshop will be held on 25 and 26 October 2018 at Kozminski University (Warsaw, Poland).
At the Workshop, papers are presented and discussed in the light of the final submission to the Special Issue. Please be aware that presentation at the Workshop does not guarantee acceptance of the paper for publication in Qualitative Research Accounting & Management. Also, participating in the Workshop is not a precondition for submitting a manuscript to the Special Issue.
If you are interested in participating in the Special Issue Workshop, please email your paper to [email protected] and [email protected] before 31 August 2018.


  • ScholarOne submissions will open at the beginning of November 2018.
  • Key dates: Full paper submission: by the 15th January 2019
  • Contact details: For inquiries and further information please contact Giuseppe Grossi, [email protected]