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Analysing societal regulatory control systems with specific reference to higher education in England

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to analyse the nature of societal regulatory control systems developing an analytical framework drawing from Jurgen Habermas' notion of "steering" and an understanding of "performance management systems". It seeks to provide a conceptual language of "relational" and "transactional" approaches to regulation both generally and in relation to higher education (HE). The paper aims to illustrate that different types of regulation are related to the different contexts in which they are developed. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper undertakes an in-depth analysis of regulatory frameworks and financing at a general level and in the specific context of HE in England in order to analyse the nature of the processes of steering both empirically and conceptually. The paper ends with some evaluatory reflections on the conceptual framework and in relation to the regulatory processes of HE in the England following this change. Findings ‐ The paper argues that the societal regulatory requirements, of a "relational" or "transactional" form use financing as central tools of "steering", both generally and in HE. In HE two dominant institutional steering media are identified: regional Funding Councils, (in England, the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE)) and the Research Councils (RC). Regulation of funding flows from the two bodies is described using the conceptual framework developed. HEFCE's regulations are more "relational" in nature relative to the RCs more "transactional" systems. Located in two different Government departments until June 2007, these two funding organisations were then brought together to form the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS); they are now (since June 2009) part of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS). Originality/value ‐ The paper provides a conceptual framework by which to understand regulation more generally and demonstrates the significance of this framework by providing new insights into the changing societal regulatory context of HE in England.
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Keywords: England; Governance; Higher education; Performance management systems; Regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-05-11

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