Calculative practices in higher education: A retrospective analysis of curricular accounting focusing on university enlargement.
Purpose – This study extends coverage of the accounting literature to means of measuring, recording and reporting university-student learning. The means in question comprise credit, credit points, levels of learning, level descriptors, learning outcomes, and related characteristics of course catalogues, qualification frameworks, credit transfer systems and student records, transcripts and diploma supplements. Despite the infant precursors of these calculative practices, processes, records and so on having been labelled curricular accounting (see Theodossin, E. (1986), The Modular Market, Further Education Staff College, London), accounting researchers have overlooked these means as a variant of accounting, notwithstanding that how accounting figures variously in New Higher Education has been the subject of widespread accounting research studies. Design/Methodology/Approach – The subject is addressed both in a technical way and in the broader context of accounting in organisations and society. The former University of New Zealand and its affiliate in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the successor of that affiliate, Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha /the University of Canterbury, are used as a case study for archival study and participant-observation. The credit point system in place at the University of Canterbury in 2010 and antecedent arrangements back to 1873 are analysed genealogically, using ideas of representational schemes, path-dependent changes and negotiated orders among parties who have been associated with the case institution. In the present paper, particular attention is paid to how and why curricular accounting and antecedent means of specifying, recording and controlling learning are connected with enlargement of the institution, including the learning (and teaching) provided. Findings – The retrospective analysis illuminates how and why growth in students, staff, qualifications, courses, subjects and so on shaped and formed curricular accounting, and came to be enabled and further fuelled by curricular accounting; and suggests that similar applies across tertiary education in many countries.