Influences on external stakeholder engagement and its measurement in Irish HEIs

Ruth Vance Lee

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    Engagement implies thoughtful interaction with the world external to the higher education institutions (HEI) and has been depicted using words such as partnering and mutual benefit. Such engagements occur with stakeholders who are described as any group or individual who can affect or are affected by the achievement of an organisation. HEIs are now engaging with a wide set of stakeholders in a variety of interactions relating to graduate formation, workforce development, research and innovation, social enhancement, and market advancement. However, HEIs cannot attend to all claims on their organisation from external stakeholders. This study combines stakeholder theory and new institutional sociology (NIS) to explore influences on HEI engagement with external stakeholders and measurement of these interactions. Measurement of engagement interactions has become more prevalent in recent years, driving HEIs to further consider external engagement. Stakeholder salience based on three attributes: power, legitimacy, and urgency is significant in determining stakeholder prioritisation. Correspondingly, NIS proposes that coercive, mimetic and normative isomorphic pressures within the institutional environment shape HEI engagement with external stakeholders. This research adopts a qualitative approach using case study method to collect data from semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis. Findings from the study highlight the variety of external stakeholders with whom the case HEI engages. They confirm that combined stakeholder and institutional influences have determined the types of HEI engagement interactions and their measurement in HEIs. The results verify both macro influences including institutional, influences such as policy, culture and norms, and micro influences including stakeholder proximate needs such as local employer and prospective students concerns. Institutions can mediate stakeholder pressures by legitimating a stakeholder’s claim. Conversely, stakeholders can mediate the isomorphic institutional effects proposed by NIS, by acting as buffers or amplifiers of institutional pressures. Hence, the findings show that institutional and stakeholder pressures have influenced external stakeholder engagement and its measurement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Kelly, Rosemarie, Supervisor
    • O'Toole, Thomas, Supervisor
    Publication statusSubmitted - 2019


    • Stakeholders, Higher Education Institutions (HEI)


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