Calibration of stakeholder influence in the UK higher education sector

Laura McCann, Norman Hutchison, Alastair Adair

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    148 Downloads (Pure)


    Over the last 20 years, the UK Higher Education sector has experienced a significant change to its funding base with a shift away from government funding, to operating within a highly competitive marketised environment. This shift has impacted the governance and management structures within the sector, with universities encouraged to adopt a more corporate and managerial style. Moreover, over this period, universities have evolved and adapted to social, economic, environmental and technological changes, necessitating a change in dialogue with the large number of internal and external stakeholders who influence Higher Education policy as well as university practices and operations. Adopting a Stakeholder and Resource Dependency Theory perspective, this paper seeks to calibrate the changing influence and importance of these stakeholders. The paper analyses a survey of 22 university secretaries (In the UK Higher Education setting, the university secretary is responsible for the effective governance of the university and for its professional services. In recent years, several UK universities have changed the title of this role from university secretary to Chief Operating Officer (COO), or to University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, which is more common internationally.) conducted in mid-2020, and the results show that academic staff and students are seen as the most influential internal stakeholders as the quality of teaching and research is vital to the reputation and attractiveness of the university in a global market. Undergraduate home students are seen as the most influential student group due largely to the numbers enrolled, followed by international postgraduate taught students, an outcome consistent with resource dependency theory. UK and devolved governments (Devolution occurs when a central government delegates power to a region, providing it with autonomy to make legislation relevant to the area, whilst keeping it under national control. In the UK, devolved powers were granted to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the UK Westminster Government following referenda in each region in the late 1990s. The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have control over a wide range of policy areas and have the authority to pass their own legislation in relation to them. One such devolved policy area is education. Other devolved policy areas include health services, law, and the environment.) are seen as the most influential external stakeholder reflecting their role in university funding and in setting Higher Education policy and regulation, an influence that has increased over the past two decades. The influence of financial stakeholders has also grown over the past two decades.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    Number of pages22
    JournalStudies in Higher Education
    Early online date21 Apr 2021
    Publication statusPublished online - 21 Apr 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 Society for Research into Higher Education.

    Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Marketisation
    • Stakeholder and resource dependency theory
    • UK universities


    Dive into the research topics of 'Calibration of stakeholder influence in the UK higher education sector'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this