Corporate social responsibility in higher education : a study of the institutionalisation of CSR in Malaysian public universities
Type of content
Internationally, the tertiary education sector has faced strong institutional pressures to embrace Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In Malaysia, the government mandated CSR in 2009 and universities had to comply with the directive to adopt CSR. Even though many universities had been involved in various forms of CSR before the directive, the coercive pressure from government accelerated the speed of adoption and led to the institutionalisation of CSR in the sector. Taking an organisation-centric perspective, this study aims to empirically describe the institutionalisation by investigating internal university contexts, university approaches to institutionalisation (determined by degree of pace and degree of stability), the role of initial drivers for CSR, and university’ research performance on CSR outcomes (conceptualised as benefits from CSR and quality of the CSR reporting). The study is based on in-depth case studies in 6 universities. It uses 2011-2015 data from two external sources: data on university research performance and university CSR reports. Using qualitative and configurational analyses, a set of propositions about CSR institutionalisation is formulated. The findings suggest that high levels of research performance lead to lower levels of benefits from CSR and quality of reporting; the higher degree of stability of CSR in organisations leads to higher benefits from CSR; the leading (following) nature of the initial driver to CSR leads to the higher (lower) quality of CSR reporting; the higher degree of maturity of CSR leads to higher quality of CSR reporting; the fast (slow) degree of pace leads to higher (lower) quality of CSR reporting. The study contributes to the literature and practice in several ways. The study provides an understanding of the institutionalisation of CSR in public universities in Malaysia and more specifically examines the institutionalisation at the organisational level. Therefore, it contributes to the literature by scrutinizing the “what” and “how” of the institutionalisation process in Malaysian universities.
The findings of the study will be useful for further processes related to CSR adoption and institutionalisation of the higher education sector and individual universities – perhaps also including the public sector in general. The study further benefits university management, the Ministry of Higher Education and other practitioners. In addition, the results of the study add an insightful knowledge to the literature on interventions and improvements in higher education institutions in Malaysia.