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A study of whistle-blowing intentions of teachers working in higher education sector

Narendra Singh Chaudhary (Symbiosis Centre for Management Studies, Noida, India, and Constituent of Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, India)
Kriti Priya Gupta (Symbiosis Centre for Management Studies, Noida, India, and Constituent of Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, India)
Shivinder Phoolka (Punjabi University Regional Centre for Information Technology and Management, Mohali, India)

International Journal of Law and Management

ISSN: 1754-243X

Article publication date: 11 February 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the key factors which influence whistleblowing intentions of teachers working with higher education institutions (HEIs) in India. Both internal and external whistleblowing intentions of the HEI teachers are studied by examining their relative intentions to report a potential wrongdoing to the authorities within the management of the institution and to the external statutory bodies. The reporting intentions of the HEI teachers are measured through the use of three vignettes related to academic frauds. Whistleblowing intentions are proposed to be determined by the individual, organizational and situational factors.

Design/methodology/approach

Survey method of descriptive research design has been used to obtain the primary data regarding the individual, organizational and situational variables deemed to influence HEI teachers’ internal and external whistleblowing intentions. A self-administered structured questionnaire is used as survey instrument for primary data collection. The respondents’ internal and external whistleblowing intentions are measured through the use of three vignettes related to academic frauds. Non-parametric tests such as Mann–Whitney U test, Kruskal–Wallis test and Spearman correlations have been used to test the research hypotheses.

Findings

The study has found that the HEI teachers are more likely to blow the whistle internally if there is a proper communication channel in their organization for reporting wrongdoings. However, they do not hesitate to blow the whistle externally in the absence of internal reporting channel, especially in those cases of wrongdoings where they perceive the cost of reporting to be high. The high status of the wrongdoer and high costs of reporting discourage the teachers to blow the whistle internally. However, if the wrongdoer holds a very powerful position in the organization, then the teachers prefer to report his wrongdoing to external agencies as they are afraid of the likely negative repercussions of reporting against him internally. In case of serious wrongdoings, the teachers intend to blow the whistle within the organization rather than going to external agencies probably because they do not want to spoil the image of their organization in the external world.

Research limitations/implications

The first limitation is that because of the unavailability of pre-tested vignettes in the context of academic frauds, the study has used three vignettes which have been developed on the basis of few case studies. Second, the results showed the existence of social desirability bias across all the three vignettes. Also, the study has been conducted among teaching professionals; therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to the professionals of other sectors.

Practical implications

The findings of the study may bring awareness to the board of management of HEIs, regarding the importance of whistleblowing in their educational institutions. They should encourage the teachers working with their institutions to report the wrongdoings internally as external reporting may cause damage to their institute’s reputation. Proper reporting mechanisms should be designed and shared with the employees as a part of institutional culture.

Social implications

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act passed by the Parliament of India in 2011 should be amended to include the private sector employees, especially the teachers working in higher education sector. This will encourage the HEI teachers to report the academic frauds fearlessly which will put a serious check on the growing number of frauds and wrongdoings in the education sector.

Originality/value

Previous research studies have discussed the factors influencing whistleblowing intentions in the context of various non-academic organizations. However, existing research has not adequately provided a better understanding of the influencing factors of whistleblowing intentions in higher education sector. The present paper addresses this gap by empirically examining the key factors which influence HEI teachers’ intentions of blowing the whistle and reporting the wrongdoings occurring in their institutions, in Indian context. An attempt has been made to identify the influencing factors of both internal and external whistleblowing intentions by using three different vignettes related with academic frauds.

Keywords

Citation

Chaudhary, N.S., Gupta, K.P. and Phoolka, S. (2019), "A study of whistle-blowing intentions of teachers working in higher education sector", International Journal of Law and Management, Vol. 61 No. 1, pp. 106-132. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLMA-10-2017-0253

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited