Accounting and performance measurement in the age of rankings, quality assurance, accreditation, and excellence frameworks

Call for papers for: Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

Guest Editors
Associate Professor Elin Funck, Linnaeus University, [email protected] 
Associate Professor Kirsi-Mari Kallio, University of Turku and Linnaeus University, [email protected](corresponding editor)
Professor Tomi J. Kallio, University of Turku and Linnaeus University, [email protected] 

Background
Across the past three decades, numbers, particularly those that can be expressed in financial terms, have become bestowed with a form of truth. In today’s society numbers guide and govern us, shape and influence who we are, or who we should try to become (Kurunmäki, Mennicken & Miller, 2016). A few decades ago, this quantifying bandwagon was more restricted to a few practices. Today it appears as if no one can escape it. The so-called audit culture (Shore & Wright, 2015a) or audit explosion (Power, 2003) has spread the technologies of financial accounting into new systems of measuring and ranking organizations and their employees so that quantification and statistics serve for instruments of governance and power (Shore & Wright, 2015b). More recently, the quality and quality assurance (QA) of operations and services, rankings of service providers, and different excellence frameworks in public organizations have received increasing attention (see e.g., Ahrens & Khalifa, 2015). At the pace of the rise of the aforementioned systems of auditing and rankings, also a vast number of international firms specializing in accountancy and statistical ratings have emerged (Shore and Wright, 2015a). These agencies measure the creditworthiness of countries and organizations (ibid). 

The external control and monitoring of activities are taken up by administrative structures in public services or organizations and verified through standardized measures and instruments. Some authors have argued that such quantified criteria of valuation result in the over-valorization of quantity over quality (Kallio & Kallio, 2014; Olssen & Peters, 2005) or that evaluations become constrained by standardized scores based upon rankings and ratings (Lane, 2010). According to Sauder and Espeland, (2009: 80), “Rankings are part of a global movement that is redefining accountability, transparency, and good governance in terms of quantitative measures ... they diminish the salience of local knowledge and professional autonomy, they absorb vast resources, and they insinuate and extend market logic”. Muller (2018: 3) continues that “there are things that can be measured. There are things that are worth measuring. But what can be measured is not always what is worth measuring … The things that get measured may draw efforts away from the things we really care about. And measurement may provide us with distorted knowledge.”  
Challenged by Sauder and Espeland (2009) and Muller (2018), in this special issue we want to focus on the effects and consequences of the age of rankings, quality assurance, accreditation as well as excellence frameworks in public services and organizations. Since public sector organizations are typically not directly subject to the market mechanism, it is far from easy to determine what quality means for public sector organizations in general and for knowledge-intensive public organizations in particular.

Topics for submission
Regardless of the difficulty to define what quality is let alone measure it in knowledge-intensive public organizations, different kind of performance measurement (PM) and QA tools have been actively developed and implemented (see e.g., Hassan, 2005; Hutaibat, von Alberti-Alhtaybat & Al-Htaybat, 2011; Kattan, Pike & Tayles, 2002; Kallio, Kallio & Blomberg, 2020; Upping & Oliver, 2012;). As a consequence, knowledge-intensive public organizations such as universities and research institutions, hospitals and other healthcare organizations, schools, military and police forces, as well as cultural institutions have faced a new type of pressures to define and measure quality and report it. The avalanche of numbers may, however, be justified in terms of economizing, marketizing or democratizing (Kurunmäki, Mennicken & Miller, 2016), indicating different uses. This special issue is interested in fostering the understanding concerning what quality means in knowledge-intensive public organizations and how QA and quality reporting affect to these organizations and the knowledge work conducted in them. Relevant research topics for the special issue include but are not limited to the following questions:

  • How are quality and performance constructed by performance measurement and management?
  • What’s the role of accounting numbers in the shaping of who we are, what we have become, and who we wish to be?
  • How has quality assurance and quality control changed over time in knowledge-intensive public organizations?
  • How do quality assurance and/or performance measurement systems affect knowledge-intensive public organizations?
  • How do quality assurance and performance measurement systems challenge the role of professions in knowledge-intensive public organizations?
  • How will the audit society shape the future of knowledge-intensive public organizations?
  • How can quality be defined in case of production of intangible and abstract outputs and services produced by knowledge-intensive public organizations?
  • What criteria are used in QA in knowledge-intensive public organizations and who defines them?
  • Is QA balanced or does it focus on just some aspects of the operations of knowledge-intensive public organizations? 
  • How QA affects the operations of knowledge-intensive public organizations and their knowledge workers?
  • Does quality reporting reflect the actual operation of knowledge-intensive public organizations or does it contain elements of decoupling?
  • What kind of future lies ahead for the public organizations within the audit culture society?

Schedule and Submissions

  • Authors should adhere to the journal’s author guidelines and submit their papers online to the special issue “Accounting and performance measurement in the age of rankings, quality assurance, accreditation, and excellence frameworks” at https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jaoc.
  • All papers will be refereed through the journal’s standard peer-review process.
  • The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2022.
  • The special issue is intended to be published in early 2024.

References
Ahrens, T. and Khalifa, R. (2015), “The impact of regulation on management control: compliance as a strategic response to institutional logics of university accreditation”, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 106–126.
Hassan, M. K. (2005), “Management accounting and institutional change: an institutional perspective”, Journal of accounting and organizational change, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 125–140.
Hutaibat, K., von Alberti-Alhtaybat, L. and Al-Htaybat, K. (2011), “Strategic management accounting and the strategising mindset in an English higher education institutional context”, Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 358–390.
Kallio, K-M. and Kallio, T. J. (2014),” Management-by-results and performance measurements in universities – implications for work motivation”, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 574–589.
Kallio, T., Kallio, K-M. and Blomberg, A. (2020), “From professional bureaucracy to competitive bureaucracy – Redefining universities’ organizational principles, performance measurement criteria, and reason for being”, Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, Vol. 17 No.1, pp. 82–108.
Kattan, F., Pike, R. and Tayles, M. (2007), “Reliance on management accounting under environmental uncertainty The case of Palestine”, Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 227–249.
Kurunmäki, L., Mennicken, A. and Miller, P. (2016), “Quantifying, economising, and marketising: democratizing the social sphere?”, Sociologie du travail, Vol. 58 No. 4, pp. 390–402.
Lane, J. (2010), “Let’s make science metrics more scientific, Nature, Vol. 464 No. 7288, pp. 488–489. 
Muller, J. Z. (2018), “The Tyranny of Metrics”. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Olssen, M. and Peters, M. (2005), “Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism”, Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 313–345.
Power, M. (2003), “Evaluating the audit explosion”, Law & Policy, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 185–202. 
Sauder, M., and Espeland W. N. (2009), “The discipline of rankings: Tight coupling and organizational change”, American Sociological Review, Vol. 74 No. 1, pp. 63–82.
Shore, C. and Wright, S. (2015a), “Audit culture revisited. Rankings, ratings, and the reassembling of society”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 421–444.
Shore, C. and Wright, S. (2015b), “Governing by numbers: audit culture, rankings and the new world order”, Social Anthropology, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 22–28.
Upping, P. and Oliver, J. (2012), “Thai public universities: modernisation of accounting practices”, Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 403–430.