Reflection and constitution of “new” public service and “new” university education in and through curricular accounting
Purpose – Credit, credit points, course weights, levels of learning, level descriptors, learning outcomes, and related characteristics of course catalogues, qualification frameworks, resource allocation practices, credit transfer systems and student records, transcripts and diploma supplements comprise curricular accounting, a form of accounting whose practices have become more obvious in recent times as a means to specify, record and control learning in higher education. These times have also been ones over which universities, ancient and modern, have been influenced by such policy movements as “‘New’ Higher Education”, “‘New’ Public Management” and “Structural Adjustment”. This study considers the inter-relatedness of these two series of changes, addressing the questions of how curricular accounting has come to reflect these policy movements; and how curricular accounting has influenced or helped constitute them. Design/Methodology/Approach – The subject is addressed in the context of accounting in organisations and society. In a broader, longitudinal study of the phenomenon of curricular accounting, 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, were used for archival study and participant-observation. The credit system used at the University of Canterbury in 2010 was analysed retrospectively and genealogically, through antecedent arrangements back to the founding of Canterbury College in1873. Ideas were used of representational schemes of and negotiated orders among parties associated with the case institution, and of changes in these being path-dependent. In the present paper, particular attention is paid to how and why, in the years since about 1984, curricular accounting evolved alongside revolutionary changes to New Zealand public services and associated changes to New Zealand’s universities and its higher education system. Findings – The retrospective analysis illuminates how and why changes to public services and universities re-shaped and re-formed curricular accounting, and how and why curricular accounting came to enable and further fuel the university and higher education policy system changes. Of particular significance are how, within institutions, curricular accounting has come to figure in steering and controlling academics at a distance; and how, within the public policy area of higher education, similar applies to university institutions and other levels of the policy system through to the core of the Government of New Zealand. Research limitations/ implications – Curricular accounting has multifarious consequences for students, academics, alumni, universities and similar institutions, higher education, governments and others. The findings are derived from an accounting perspective and there is scope for adding other perspectives. There is much scope for further research, including into similarities and differences in higher education policy systems in other jurisdictions. Practical Implications – The paper may improve understanding of curricular accounting, including among those practicing it and controlled by it; and it raises issues that are likely to condition further developments. Originality Value – Curricular accounting is now in the accounting literature.