The Quest for Accountability in Ontario's Post-Secondary Education Sector: An Assessment of the Transformative Power of the Multi-Year Accountability Agreements (MYA/MYAAS)

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Title: The Quest for Accountability in Ontario's Post-Secondary Education Sector: An Assessment of the Transformative Power of the Multi-Year Accountability Agreements (MYA/MYAAS)
Authors: Díaz Paniagua, Victoria Eugenia
Date: 2014
Abstract: This doctoral thesis analyzes the introduction, development, evolution and impacts of the Multi-Year Accountability Agreements, which were introduced to the Ontario post-secondary sector in 2006. The analysis uses an eclectic theoretical framework that builds on the accountability literature, public policy implementation theory, organizational theory, principal-agent theory and the study of instruments in the French tradition. This allows for analyzing the original object of study using multiple lenses. The field work was extensive and consisted of a documentary analysis including the agreements for Ontario’s twenty universities between 2006-07 and 2009-10, as well as thirty-seven semi-structured interviews undertaken in 2012 with representatives from Ontario universities, the Ontario government and other sector organizations. The thesis moves away from a speculative definition of accountability as it clarifies how this concept is interpreted and constructed by the actors involved in its implementation and how its dimensions evolve over time. Accountability is thus conceptualized as a “moving target” – a challenge that is not unique to the post-secondary sector, as these kinds of processes are observed in other areas of the public sector. Therefore, although accountability is often presented as a tool of “good governance” intended to reduce waste and increase trust, is actually operationalized in a highly symbolic fashion and the gaps between the public discourse, the perceptions of actors and the final implementation are demonstrated. This thesis also shows how the choice of instrument facilitates acceptance of a new requirement in the sector and helps balance the government’s need for control with the universities’ need for independence. On one hand, the type of instrument is coherent with government discourse for increased accountability. On the other hand, the instrument, presented as an agreement embodies the negotiated character of the relationship, and conveys the idea to different actors that their needs are being met. However, when the objectives are ambiguous, uncertainty is pervasive, and negotiation is limited, the increase in control reduced and the changes in autonomy are negligible. Despite the promises of the instrument, symbolic and rhetorical compliance may be the sustainable equilibrium between governments and governed.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/31702
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-6501
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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