Organizational change in an Australian university: responses to a research assessment exercise

Ann Martin-Sardesai*, Helen Irvine, Stuart Tooley, James Guthrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this paper is to explore the way internal organizational control processes are changed in response to external demands. It does this by investigating the organizational change undertaken by an Australian university in anticipation of, and in response to, an externally imposed research assessment exercise (RAE), specifically focusing on the university's internal research-related performance management system (PMS) and its impact on academics. It adopts a case study method, using data from publicly available documents, interviews with senior management, and a survey administered to academics. The data is interpreted and analyzed using Broadbent and Laughlin's organizational change model. The findings reveal that RAE was anticipated with the appointment of new senior leadership, a new vision, restructure of faculties and departments, and changes to the research PMS. The changes to both the university's mission (significant and longlasting, second order change) and its internal systems (less significant, first order change) are evident. In the context of the global proliferation of PMSs in the higher education sector, this paper contributes to the literature on PMSs, indicating its relevance to universities. Its empirics provide useful insights for university managers and regulators and, more broadly, the paper contributes to our understanding of organizational change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-412
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Australian higher education sector
  • Excellence in research for Australia
  • Organizational change
  • Performance management systems
  • Research assessment exercise


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