The question of research relevance: a university management perspective

Basil P. Tucker (School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Lee D. Parker (School of Accounting, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) (Adam Smith School of Business, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 24 June 2019



The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate the issue of research relevance from the frame of reference of university leaders. Its specific aim is to gain insights into how “relevance” is conceptualised, and the underlying assumptions upon which such conceptualizations are based.


Adopting an inductive approach, the study collects and analyses data from semi-structured interviews with 31 senior research-related university leaders, and archival sources in five Australian universities.


Research relevance is primarily viewed as a means of responding to government and political imperatives, as a pathway to ensuring university legitimacy, and as a means of generating further resources. The authors apply this understanding to develop a framework that adopts a nuanced view of relevance, reflecting what is driving research, and to whom research is principally targeted.

Research limitations/implications

The evidence-base upon which the study is based represents a relatively small number of university leaders of Australian universities. Moreover, restricting the investigation to a few senior hierarchical levels nonetheless offers insights into high level organisational drivers hitherto neglected in the accounting research literature on university strategy, governance and accountability. While not addressing perceptions across the university population, this study focusses on and unpacks the social construction of relevance of this select group as research policy makers.


As one of the few empirically informed investigations exploring the issue of research relevance from the perspective of university leaders, this study provides insights rather than “answers”. Its findings therefore serve as a foundational basis for further empirical and theoretical enquiry.



Tucker, B. and Parker, L. (2019), "The question of research relevance: a university management perspective", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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