Resource dependency and university behaviour

Year: 2001

Author: Leslie, Larry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Larry Leslie reports on a National Science Foundation (NSF) (U.S.A.) project which as in the Australian case studies reported in 'Academic Capitalism', employs Resource Dependency (RD) theory to empirically examine the effects of government funding declines on public research universities. (1) Utilising U.S. samples of 175 public universities, causal models used in the project demonstrate that changes in revenue patterns affect changes in university activities (e.g. teaching, research). Efforts shift in accord with the desires of the new resource providers. The paper postulates threats to the public interest. (2) Utilising two National departmental data sets plus new data from 600 faculty and unit heads in 55 departments in 11 universities, departments are found to be remarkably stable in meeting their fundamental responsibilities, even during periods of financial stress. Departments shift their resources to maintain homeostasis. (3) Utilising econometric models of academic faculty time allocations, controlled for quality of outputs, faculty allocations are found to vary with such activities as grant and contract work.

Overall RD theory was a powerful predictor of internal university behaviours although major changes occurred primarily when units were destabilised.