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The habitus of individuals in performance measurement practices in universities: a case study

Chaturika Priyadarshani Seneviratne (Department of Accounting, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka)
Zahirul Hoque (Department of Accounting, College of Business Administration, Prince Sultan University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 14 December 2022

Issue publication date: 7 February 2023




This study aims to explore the role of individuals’ habitus in an organization’s performance measurement practices. Habitus refers to how individuals with a particular background perceive and react to the social world.


Drawing from the habitus philosophy developed by Bourdieu in his practice theory (Bourdieu, 1977), this study used a qualitative research methodology involving face-to-face interviews, observations of performance evaluation meetings and examination of documents within a Sri Lankan public university.


The authors revealed the power of university individuals as they possess practical knowledge in their field where they operate to make effects in the practice of a performance measurement system (PMS). In addition, the research findings show that mutually opposing strategies, self-interests and individuals’ varied power relations collectively play a dominant role in deciding the practical operation of the PMS at the university.

Research limitations/implications

While this study is constrained to a Sri Lankan public university, its findings offer insights into how individuals within an organization can emerge as influential players in PMS practice.


The findings enhance the understanding of how PMS practice may operate beyond traditional, calculative and abstract forms in an organizational setting. Instead, individuals, as micro-level forces in a specific social space, shape organizational practices, such as PMS, in universities.



The first-named author thanks La Trobe University for providing a post-graduate research scholarship to conduct her Ph.D. study. This paper partly draws on her Ph.D. dissertation.


Seneviratne, C.P. and Hoque, Z. (2023), "The habitus of individuals in performance measurement practices in universities: a case study", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 72-91.



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