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Multiple institutional logics and their impact on accounting in higher education: The case of a German foundation university

Annemarie Conrath-Hargreaves (Department of Accounting, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Sonja Wüstemann (Chair of Accounting and Management Control, Faculty of Business and Economics, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 11 April 2019

Issue publication date: 14 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore how an Higher Education Institution’s (HEI) choice of undergoing a voluntary reorganisation, motivated by its own interest of increasing its autonomy, whilst also having to satisfy the government in order to maintain the level of public funding, impacts on the HEI’s accounting.


The paper draws on the institutional logics perspective to present a single case study of a German HEI that chose to be reorganised from a public into a foundation university. Data were obtained using multiple data collection methods.


The findings suggest that organisational characteristics, which act as filters for institutional logics, play an important role for HEIs’ ability to increase not only their de jure, but also their de facto autonomy through self-motivated, rather than government imposed, reform processes.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is based on a single case study in a country-specific context, limiting the empirical generalisability of the findings.


Germany is not only one of the main nations exporting higher education, but its economy has also been recognised for its stability and development over the last decades. Nevertheless, Germany struggles in its transition to become a knowledge-based economy. Yet, research has so far tended to neglect educational reforms in Continental European countries, such as Germany. By addressing this gap in the literature, this paper is among the first to explore how reform processes shape accounting in German HEIs.



This paper forms part of a special section “Accountability and performance challenges in knowledge intensive public organisations”.

The authors are particularly thankful for helpful comments by Eksa Kilfoyle, Matthew Hall, Kalle Kraus, Richard Pucci and Irvine Lapsley, as well as by workshop participants at Monash University and the University of Edinburgh. They also thank Leona Wiegman, Christian Ott and Yuval Millo, the participants of the 2017 AAAJ Special Forum Workshop, Warsaw and the participants of the 2018 CNPR Conference on Accounting for the Public Sector at a Time of Crisis for their comments on previous versions of this paper and also to Giuseppe Grossi (Editor) and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments throughout the review process. All errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the authors.


Conrath-Hargreaves, A. and Wüstemann, S. (2019), "Multiple institutional logics and their impact on accounting in higher education: The case of a German foundation university", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 782-810.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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