Course: MBA (LAW)

Date 2019

Governance in higher education is a policy issue that has become critical over the last decade. This issue has forced institutions of higher learning to examine how they might respond more effectively to changing social, demographic, and political forces. As technology continues to grow the pressures on higher education is more noticeable and challenging in countries like St. Lucia.  Higher education Institutions (HEI’s) are overwhelmed by substantial increases in admissions, there is controversy over their status as a public or private good, there is insufficient funding, out-of-date curricula, and inadequate and rigid governance structures (Task Force on Higher Education and Society [TFHES], 2000). These pressures demands for more accountability from governments and is happening in an environment where globally government funding is diminishing, and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are unable to satisfy the growing demands.  As the demand continues to increase, and as governments acknowledge their role in promoting economic development, it has become progressively important to ensure that higher education systems are managed effectively. (Altbach & Davis, 1999).

Governance structures are important, in the sense that they have to be clear and understood to be effective. These structures are shaped nationally by their economic, political and legal backgrounds, by their sources of finance, and by the history and culture of the countries concerned. (Cramer, 2017).   Moreover, Higher education systems are also getting more complex due to the growth in the number of public and private institutions, so that the task of managing and monitoring the sector is becoming more specialized and demanding. As a result, the old model of total control from a central Ministry of Education (MOE) is proving unsustainable in the long term and is being replaced throughout the world by other models. As such, public universities seeking to remain sustainable have to embrace an effective management plan to respond to the growing, societal demands (Manning, 2017).  In this competitive environment, universities are adopting approaches that offer them sufficient autonomy and flexibility to achieve efficient management of the organizations. Hence, the governance approaches employed by these institutions have significant influence on their sustainability and recognition in the market (Austin and Jones, 2015).

The purpose of this dissertation is to understand governance of higher education institutions by examining the significance and adaptability of theories that have already been applied, with a view to ascertaining an appropriate model that could be adopted at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC).  These include the Agency Theory, the Institutional theory, Market-Oriented Model and the State-Centered Model.  While the dissertation seeks to provide evidence of the global trends, its coverage applies more systematically to SALCC.


The following section introduces the hypothetical perspectives of the Agency theory, institutional theory as the main governance theories and the market oriented and State-Centered Models as other theories applied by Higher Education Institutions. These theories share the assumptions that organizations are subjected to external forces which limit their actions and choices. However, the theories differ on how and to what extent organizations respond.

  1.1.1. Agency Theory

The Agency Theory is described as the relationship between two or more parties working in collaboration to achieve a set goal. In this arrangement, one of the parties has to be the principal, while the others are the agents (Bosse and Phillips, 2016). Within this model, the agents have a challenge in fulfilling the duties assigned to them by the principals because the two bodies (principals and agents) have different goals (Mitnick, 2015). Moreover, the agents have more information about their abilities and activities as compared to the principals (Shogren et al., 2015; Gardner, 2016). Consequently, the primary challenge with this framework is how the agents are empowered to realize the desires of the principals, while performing their expected roles.

          1.1.2. Institutional Theory

1.1.3 The Market Oriented Model/Theory

Unlike the institutional theory, the Market Model allows higher education institutions to be managed like private organizations as they take full responsibility for setting their fees and rules without public intervention. This model does not incorporate state oversight, and has been found to experience various shortcomings. (Marginson 2013) suggests that this model in Higher Education governance leads to a high level of information asymmetry as it fails to embrace a bureaucratic control system. Thus, for effective management of the Higher Education Institution (HEI) to be achieved within this model, there has to be an emphasis on audit and accountability.


1.1.4. The State-Centered Model

The state control model, as the name denotes, is characterized by the principal role of the state, which exercises control over external regulation and guidance. The state has full responsibility for financing and controlling education activities as well as tuition fees. Some of the critical features that are used to explain the model include the state’s control over courses offered, tuition fees and admission procedures. The rationale for state intervention is to ensure that the public obtains quality and equal learning opportunities. However, according to Agasisti and Catalano (2006), the model has been criticized for lack of efficiency and ineffectiveness in the management of higher education (Agasisti and Catalano, 2006).




1.2. Higher Education in St. Lucia


Higher education in St. Lucia consists of a small number of private institutions who cater mostly to foreign students, even though a small number of local students attend. Nonetheless, Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) is the lone government public tertiary level institution on the island.  Established by Act of Parliament No. 8 of 1985, the College offers instruction in areas of Agriculture, Arts Science and General Studies, Health Science, Teacher Education and Educational Administration and Technical Education and Management.

Accredited by the Ministry of Education (MOE), SALCC has checks and balances at two levels, ensuring the interests of the state are achieved, and that of the citizens are protected. To make sure that the organization offers the best to its students, management aligns all its courses with the needs of the society. (Armstrong, Armstrong, Lynch, and Severin, 2005).   A  Board of Governors (BOG) appointed by the government of the day approves most of the strategic decisions at the institution and oversees the strategic planning , even though the MOE exerts some control when it comes to appointing a principal, setting  tuition fees and curriculum development. According to the ACT seven members are selected to the board who then form part of two main committees the Academic Committee and the Management and Finance Committee. (SALCC, 2019). The government also provides financial subventions for the college an issue that has compromised the college’s performance (Nestor, 2018).

In order to develop a higher education system that prepares students for a global economy, it will be necessary for the government to address the constraints in higher education that consistently plague students in St. Lucia. These include access, costs, poor and inadequate infrastructure, and outdated curricula.

SALCC has been mandated by the government to transit into a degree granting institution which provides quality services to the community at a relatively low cost, a feat that has become very difficult given the demand and cost.  Moreover, over the years, there has been a steady reduction in the government subvention, which has triggered numerous challenges for the college. As a result, management has had to focus on raising tuition fees by 100 percent (Nestor, 2018). This strategy was to enable transforming the aging structures of the institution and provide a more effective service, however, the government rejected the recommendation; an issue that saw the entire board of governors resign from their duty (Aurelien, 2018). Consequently, the college has to determine effective ways to raise financing and offer quality services in manner that is beneficial to all stakeholders.

SALCC is now positioned to review it policies and adopt a governance structure that eliminate limitations, and meet the growing demands of the society. However, for this to happen SALCC must ensure that it delivers services based on existing theories (Van Dyne, and Ang, 1998). These theories are meant to strike a balance between what activities are essential and should be prioritized, as this is a way of ensuring success in its operations (Armstrong, Armstrong, Lynch, and Severin, 2005). The application of these theories are crucial, as the organization is likely to face many challenges that will compromise its competitiveness in the market. Intrinsically, in an effort to remain viable SALCC needs to embrace useful governance model that will allow it to capitalize on existing opportunities.

Given this background, this dissertation aims to critically evaluate the agency and institutional theories with a view to determining its relevance and efficiency within HEI’s.  While the research seeks to provide evidence of the global trends where these theories have been applied , the aim is to understand the practices at SALCC and to decipher which model is an appropriate governance model for SALCC.


What are the main factors that should be considered by SALCC in selecting the institutional and or the agency theories of governance and which model could be best suited to ensure the effective and efficient running of SALCC?

     1.3.1. OBJECTIVES

  • Critically evaluate what are the main factors that should be considered when selecting the agency and or institutional models of governance.
  • Critically evaluate how the application of the agency and/or institutional models/theories has affected governance in higher education when applied.
  • Critically evaluate whether adopting one or both of these approaches would have an impact on governance at SALCC.


In examining governance, the critical question to be determined is which model is appropriate depending on their context. Some argue that having the state involved with other stakeholders is more suitable (Van Vught, 1993) whilst others suggest that having the state play a part is not automatically relevant especially when faced with financial constraints. (Hall, Symes and Luescher, 2002).

As SALCC positions itself to evolve into a degree granting institution, there is a need to adjust to the expanding and changing demands of society and the labor market. This research is undertaken, to understand how the agency and institutional theories of governance affects key processes, and to investigate the effectiveness of these models when used a HEI’s, and make recommendations for one or both of these models to be  adopted at SALCC.


Examining the literature it was clear that there is a lack of both theoretical and empirical research on governance in Higher Education especially as it pertains to colleges in the Caribbean.  Higher education systems are also becoming more complex and the old model of overall control from a central ministry of education (MOE) is proving untenable in the long term and is being supplanted throughout the world by other models. Although many developed countries have made changes in their higher education systems to deal with the global challenges, those in the developing world continue to lag behind (Tilak, 2003). A study examining governance issues at SALCC is particularly relevant and timely since any modernization of the institution must take into account variables that would allow for good governance. It is hoped that the research will benefit SALCC as well as other community colleges in the region, which are publicly- funded and play an important role in providing higher education.


            This dissertation will be organized into five main chapters the introduction, literature review, methodology, finding and discussion and conclusion, and recommendation. The first chapter gives a brief overview of four governance models used in the management of HEI’s, the research objectives, statement of the problem and the rationale and significance for the study. The second chapter looks at a critical evaluation of the main academic theories, which forms the basis for this research. In addition, the section gives a summary of the literature review section as well as the main theories that will proceed to the methodology section. The third chapter describes the methodology/approach that is involved in conducting the dissertation. The fourth chapter states the research findings and discussion and how the findings answers the research question. Finally, based on the research findings and discussion section, recommendations will be made.



The upcoming chapter reviews the literature on governance in Higher Education Institutions (HEI), specifically the agency and institutional models. The first part will look at governance of higher education, as broad literature suggests that this is an aged concept that is still evolving and varies according to the context that it is used. A critical evaluation of the main academic theories, and their relevance to the governance in HEI’s, will be presented followed by an overview of the organization and its current practices.  Finally, a summary of the chapter with the theories being forwarded to the research instrument.


                  As far back as the 1930’s the concept of governance has taken on a central part in modern day debates.  This concept is multifaceted, with different meanings and implications based on the view of organizational accountability and responsibility (Williamson 1998, 2005).  The term governance encompasses all processes of governing, whether by the government, a market or a board of directors, it helps to create order in an effort to achieve the goals of educating, and researching, as well as providing services to the community. (Austin &Jones 2016). Governance is essential to the functioning of higher education at all levels, from the basic academic unit to the management. Essentially, governance has become a major leverage tool for improving quality in all aspects of higher education, ensuring that best interests of all its stakeholders are taken into consideration. (Hénard, and Mitterle 2010)

Some researchers, in observing the diversity in higher education governance arrangements, have simply assumed that the difference from one institution to the next is that each one has strategically adopted a governance structure, which complements their unique environment. They argue that because governance is shaped nationally, by their economic, political and legal backgrounds, their sources of finance, and by history and culture, that their effectiveness varies. Nonetheless, from the literature perused it suggests that a common belief is that governance in education incorporates institutions and relationships between citizens, government officials and education service providers. Ideally, it embraces responsiveness, accountability and transparency, enabling engagement between citizens and government decision makers to design and implement policies that would enhance lives.

Good governance is important and conceivably the key issue for achieving quality in higher education in developing countries (Steir, 2003). This happens when there is a balance between institutional autonomy and institutional accountability. However, many countries continue to levy strict controls on their higher education systems severely limiting institutional autonomy. As a result, there is a call for plans to implement structural reforms aimed at achieving desired goals. (Hall and Symes, 2005). All governance structures address three things, accountability, authority, and the decision-making process. Good governance is involved, consent oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. A proper governance framework clearly delineates who is accountable for performing certain tasks.

Clark’s triangle has been used as a paradigm for describing, assessing, and comparing systems of higher education (Clark, 2004). Based on the triangle three main attributes have to be taken into consideration when adopting a governance model, these includes market forces, academic oligarchy and the state. According to Clark, the academic oligarchy is the ability of groups of academic staff who through formal or informal settings may influence decisions and actions in the higher education system the state authority refers to the efforts that government makes to direct decisions and actions of the society, and higher education institutions including the market. (Clarke, 2017)

Maggio (2011) suggests that, this model explains how order is achieved in a complex Higher Education system where there are different goals, management approaches as well as beliefs. Clark’s approach to the management of HEI’s recognizes its dynamic ability to respond to new changes. The model is flexible in the sense that as the factors change and is influenced by one another, the shape of the triangle would change, but it would always remain a triangle.


2.2.1. State-centered model

This model is common in the management of public universities, as most of the decisions are made by the state and are aligned with national goals. Within this model there is limited autonomy as the HEI’s are highly supervised by the government, and the state is considered the gatekeeper. Invariably, the state influences the management of the internal affairs carried out by the institution (Davidovitch and Iram, 2015). Some of the essential attributes regulated by the state include quality assurance, business relationship, and efficiency. The above model is considered as the most conservative as compared to other governance models (Zajda, 2016). Studies suggests that this model is effective in certain instances as it ensures that national goals are attained and that the state  has control over research content, and on the way resources are distributed. (Findikli, 2017).

According to Van Vught, (1994) this model is present in many European states. It is characterized by a strong authority of state bureaucracy on the one hand and a relatively strong position of the academic oligarchy within universities on the other hand. In this model we find a state interfering in an effort to “regulate the access conditions, the curriculum, the degree requirements, the examination systems, the appointment and remuneration of academic staff etc.” (Van Vught 1994.. The rationale for employing this approach is to support the achievement of national goals and objectives (Heller, 2002). Consequently, the government chooses individuals to head HEI’s who would represent their interest. Moreover, because of reliance on uniform legislation and adoption of key standards, the HEI’s within a country are considered to have strong ties with each other (Leonard, 2017). Example of countries that relies on this type of arrangement includes Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and France among others.

2.2.2. The market-oriented model

The market-oriented approach is popular in the modern business environment however, it enables HEI’s to operate like other financial organizations. This model, focuses on achieving maximum efficiency and operates within a free market. It relies on the performance-based funding approach as HEI’s are considered investments that can be utilized to generate profits (Shattock, 2014). Although most of the decisions made are exclusively by the HEI, the government can intervene by introducing key policies to steer competition. The approach is criticized as it compromises the needs of the public as state control is limited. Additionally, this model focuses on improving quality assurance and transparency within the academic setting. Even so, there are concerns that the model promotes privatization of the education system as higher education is considered a consumer good (McNay and Hladchenko, 2015).

. The main benefit of using the market-oriented model is the fact that it promotes competition among HEI’s. (Erkkilä and Piironen, 2014). Then again, the approach is attractive because of its high level of efficiency in the market as it is applied extensively in different sectors of the economy (Zhu, 2015). This governance model is discouraged in HEI’s as it causes Higher Education to be very expensive, limiting the number of people that are likely to benefit from the same.


The agency theory is not an entirely a new concept as it is applied in various sectors of the economy such as accounting, politics, and marketing among others. Literature suggests that this theory is considered as one of the oldest theory used in management and economics (Daily, Dalton, & Rajagopalan, 2003). However, its application in the governance of Higher Education has gained popularity in the recent past. The agency theory (also known as the principal-agent or principal agency theory/model) is in the broadest sense considered whenever one party (the principal) depends on the action of another party (the agent). (Pratt and Zeckhauser, 1985).

The theory posits that in the presence of information asymmetry, the agent is likely to pursue interests that are not favorable to the principal or shareholders. Hillman & Dalziel (2003) proposes that the agency theory assumes that owners of an organization (principals) and those that manage the organization (agents) have different interests. Hence the principal will face the problem that agents are likely to act according to their own interests. When the desires or goals of the principal and agent are in conflict, the principal is unable to access what the agent is actually doing; (Fama & Jensen 1983). This theory assumes that once principals give authority to agents, they often have problems controlling them, because agents’ goals often differ from their own. The agent may also choose to act in self-interest instead of the principal’s interests, because agents often have better information about their capacity and activities than do principals. This may cause conflict between the two parties and it is manifested because of incomplete information and miscommunication.

The key feature of agency theory is separation of ownership and control. The theory prescribes that people or employees are held accountable in their tasks and responsibilities. However under this theory information asymmetries and goal conflicts, are problems that arise. In goal conflicts, the agents and the principal’s interests are not in alignment so there is no cohesion between parties, (Griskevicius, et al 2011). Because of information asymmetry, the principal is not fully aware of the capability of the agent, and when an agent is in a position with more information about the details of their assigned tasks, their abilities, preferences, and actions should be taken into consideration with those of the principal (Kendall, 1993). APPLICATION OF AGENCY THEORY.
 Informational asymmetries

One of the main arguments associated with the agency theory as it relates to its application in the higher education sector is its link to the strong interest attached to information availability and how it affects the general decision making within an organization, which in turn affects performance (Salter, and Tapper, 2000). Informational asymmetries focuses on the interactions that exist between the agent and the principal in performing specific tasks. The agent possesses more or better information about the details of individual task assigned to him as compared to principal.  (Eggertsson, 1990). Consequently, the principal does not have full access to information and the assumption is that the principal generally faces difficulties in acquiring information possessed by the agent. As a result, information may not be distributed equally between principal and agent due to conflicting interest about something important known only to the agents. (Perrow, 1993).   It is difficult to address issues affecting the organization effectively when sufficient information is unavailable so problems keep reoccurring. This results in an uneven distribution of information within the organization as the information is accessible to the agents while being highly restricted to the principals (Bøe, Gulbrandsen, and Sørebø, 2015).

Previous research have indicated that the presence of information asymmetries in organizations is important when reviewing the issue of governance in higher education (Salter, and Tapper, 2000). The performance of HEI’s in terms of governance is linked to the amount of resources allocated to the agent and the principal. However, it is very difficult for the principal to observe the results of the other departments if information is lacking. Their failure to make these observations is linked to their inability to define the operations of the organization. The quality of information that is available to both the principals and agents always determines the success of the governance decisions (Bensimon, Neumann, and Birnbaum, 1991).

Jacobs and Van Der Ploeg (2006) argued that information asymmetries causes problems in funding systems, governance, selection of students, and the appointment of academic staff. Failing to respond to these issues due to information asymmetry leads to misunderstandings in the management of the organization (McLendon, Hearn, and Deaton, 2006). The misunderstandings ultimately affects governance methods and modalities (Kivistö, 2008). It is therefore important for organizations to strengthen relationships by maintaining or adopting effective and efficient  communication channels (Kivistö, 2005).

It is clear that within this theory the presence of information asymmetry makes it difficult to achieve efficiency especially when the information needed to make important decisions is not readily available. (Bensimon, Neumann, and Birnbaum, 1991).  As such, governments have difficulty funding HEI’s because they do not always get the right information that could influence their decision-making process. Thus, for there to be effective governance, management of HEI’s must ensure that the right information is always available which will enable stakeholders to make the right decisions towards the development of the organization. (Salter, and Tapper, 2000). Goal Conflicts

Within the agency theory goal conflicts may arise during the delegation of authority from principal to agent.  It is ascribed to situations where principals’ and agents’ desires and interests concerning the task are in conflict and both prefer a different course of action. This theory assumes that both the principal and the agent are motivated by self-interest and so it is inevitable that conflict starts when there are disparate interests. The principal’s objective is for the agent to expend as much effort as is necessary to complete a task.  Conversely, it is assumed that the agent acts with self-interest and will produce at the minimum accepted level to meet the principal’s expectation unless there is some benefit to the agent.  (Petersen, 1995).

The reason for having goals is to provide direction to the agents towards attaining specific outcomes that must be achieved, especially when there is limited financial resources and demands for accountability (McKelvie, 1986). As a way of achieving the best outcome, there is need to solve any issues that may exist between the agent and the principals during the decision making process that could affect the smooth running of the HEI. (Salter, and Tapper, 2000).  HEI’s need to clearly clarify their purpose or goals more closely when the parties involved in the governance process develop differences due to conflicts in their goals and preferences.  A strategic plan is required to help them settle differences and enable the smooth running of the organization. The decisions made, irrespective of differences should be aligned with the institution’s mission and vision statements (Musselin, and Maassen, 2009).

  Effectiveness of the Agency Theory.

The Agency theory identifies comprehensive monitoring as one way to ensure that agents work in the principal’s best interest. There is a need to align the practices of the learning institutions with the institutional strategy, and at the same time put mechnisms in place to monitor the performance of management as a way of ensuring that decision makers realize the best strategies for effective governance practices. (Bruton, Ahlstrom, and Li, 2010). The application of this theory in HEI’s is highly effective, especially in the process of guiding the decision makers on issues pertaining to information sharing (McLendon, Hearn, and Deaton, 2006). The theory is used to understand the relationships between agents and principal and identifies points of conflict among groups. Because of its logically consistent framework, the agency theory is able to detect many of the intricacies and difficulties that governments face in their attempts to govern universities. It also allows you to monitor BOG.

Despite the increased application of the approach, there are numerous gaps associated with this theory. Goals are often compromised by information asymmetry as well as goal conflicts between the parties. (Bosse and Phillips, 2016).   According to Geels (2004) the key stakeholders are supposed to adopt elements of this theory and implement them in their governance practice in an effort to ensure objectives are met.  Stakeholders are expected to understand the significance of having an open sources of communication as well as the importance of keeping their discussions objective when negotiating different opinions. This can work towards improving the performance of the organization in terms of its governance practices. (Graham, Woodfield, & Harrison, 2013).   .


Institutional theory has become a common and dominant explanatory tool for studying various organizational issues, including those in the context of higher education. The concept can be defined as a simple process through which HEI’s are organized or managed (Bleiklie and Kogan, 2007. Colleges and universities exist within an institutional environment. The theory contends that organizational options is determined by the environment, and discretion in the choices available. However, institutional governance is more effective when HEI’s are given extended authority to govern their operations.

According to McKenzie (2013), institutional governance is used in various Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries because of the freedom it allows HEI’s. They are able to set their policies based on their objectives and requirements. Nonetheless, despite the level of autonomy there is a significant difference in how the approach is applied. Moreover, HEI’s do not have autonomy in all their activities but specific areas of interest. The application of institutional governance varies from one region to another. For instance, in most of the developed nations, the HEI’s have extended autonomy in most of their operations. However, in less developed countries, HEI’s tend to experience constrained autonomy in some of their operations like sourcing of funds and setting of fees. Countries like Japan and Turkey are the only nations with the least areas of autonomy and most of the operations are carried out by the state.

Figure 1: Shows extent of autonomy experienced by HE institutions (McKenzie, 2013)

However, with increased transformation experienced in the global setting, HEI’s are demanding more freedom to manage their operations. For example, universities in Norway are demanding freedom to manage the various programs that are offered by the respective universities. Each year, new policies are introduced such as extending the autonomy level, thus expanding the recognition of institutional governance (Hénard and Mitterle, 2010). The demand for employing the institutional governance approach is gaining popularity even in countries where states have full responsibility for university operations such as Korea and Japan. In these countries, HEI’s are considered as part of the government (McKenzie, 2013). Therefore, the state has the sole responsibility of governing the institutions.

  of the Institutional Theory.

Institutional governance supports the idea of autonomy; universities are given full responsibility to manage their operations. The justification for government intervention includes the fact that HEI’s are associated with a high level of social and economic gains, hence the need for government subsidy. Additionally, state intervention seeks to promote equity. This has also changed the way funding of the HEI’s is done (McKenzie, 2003).

Although governments have a role to fund these institutions, the management team is responsible for most of the operations carried out at the organization. Nevertheless, despite the significant role played by the state in the management of HEI’s, governments should not have full control over the organizations.   The application of this theory in higher education governance will undoubtedly lead to improvements in how institutions manage their workforce and guide the decision making process. Applying this theory will improve the efficiency and effectiveness with which higher education boards carry out their management and governance roles at different institutions (Hendrickson, Lane, Harris, & Dorman, 2013). The efficiency in their operations is linked to the elimination of some of the challenges that have been experienced during the governance and decision making processes. Understanding the changes that are happening in the education sector as well as developing strategies to deal with the emerging issues that continue to develop with the new trends will also contribute towards streamlining the governance process in higher education sector through the information offered by this theory.


Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) is a semi-autonomous statutory body, subject to Ministry of Education (MOE) control.  It is the lone public community college on island and provides quality services on behalf of the government. (SALCC, 2019). In the past decade, SALCC has experienced various governance issues and there has been mounting pressure from the government to transition SALCC into a university college, in an effort to provide citizens with quality education at a low cost.

In St. Lucia like many other Caribbean territories, the government controls the higher education system. In fact, the (MOE) appoints the head of the institution and a Board of Governors (BOG) on behalf of the government.  The board of governors serve at the discretion of the Minister and members have a role to manage and supervise the various activities carried out at the college. Activities such as enacting laws, budget review, monitoring and development of the curriculum, hiring staff and setting tuition fees among other crucial projects (Rowlands, 2017).

SALCC is facing a huge financial crisis that is likely to compromise its operations. To retain a competitive position in the market the BOG of SALCC attempted to increase fees by 100 percent, an issue that has received a controversial reaction from the government officials (Aurelien, 2018). The college said the reasons for the increase “are to better meet its increasing cost obligations, facilitate the transition of the college to “university college status”, and to remain competitive, among other factors.” The government declined that request, as there were concerns that the move would compromise vulnerable individuals from gaining access to affordable education. (St. Lucia News Online 2018)

The transitioning process at the SALCC is plagued with challenges. Not only is there a difficulty with finances, but SALCC is involved in a massive curriculum revision. One of her current tasks is to rationalize the institution’s curriculum to reflect the university status. There is also the need to hire more staff to enable a smooth transition.     However, there are concerns that the institution receives minimal government support and cannot meet its needs. Therefore, it is essential for the institution to be given more control to raise fees to meet emerging needs. Increasing fees is seen as a practical approach to generating more income, but there are concerns that the approach will hurt the public.

Government intervention is necessary to help manage the situation, although there will be full autonomy. SALCC is now at the cross roads because on one hand without government intervention institutional governance is likely to be compromised, and on the other hand with government intervention, it will be possible to guarantee the delivery of quality services to the public. This state controlled model of governance model creates tension between the government’s commitment to regulate public funds and the institution’s desire to be autonomous (Bjarason & Lund, 1999). It is therefore imperative that SALCC standardizes its governance practices to oversee the best interest for all stakeholders.


It is evident from the above literature that different factors influence the governance models that can be adopted, as  each one  have pros and cons that are used to meet the ever-changing needs of the society.  The goal of this chapter was to recognize the conceptual framework of the agency and institution theories used in the governance of HEI’s and conduct a critical analysis.

Informational asymmetries and goal conflicts can be considered critical to the agency theory (Waterman & Meier, 1998).  Together these two components engender agency problems.  The existence of informational asymmetries would not matter, if goal conflicts was absent, and the agent would inevitably choose the actions desired by the principal.  The assumption and existence of goal conflict is necessary for agency theory (Davis, 1997).  Similarly if the principals and agents has the same information readily available there would be no conflict of interest or information asymmetries (Ricketts, 2002).  As such, the conflicts between principal and agent does not have to be permanent or constant, but there must be a definite reasons for them to occur (Milgrom & Roberts, 1992).

Like the Agency theory, the institutional governance approach is acknowledged because of its accountability role.  Institutional theory has had a significant influence on the study of structures, processes, and activities in organizations. It provides a semblance of autonomy which is critical to the successful operations of the institution. As such the current model of governance employed by SALCC can be aligned with that of the institutional theory as the organization is characterized by a level of autonomy. The institution makes most of the critical decisions with some interference from the government. Nonetheless because of inadequate financial resources SALCC needs more funding to jumpstart essential projects aimed at transforming the institution into a modern university.

Through literature it can be summarized that the agency theory is a very pragmatic and functional theory. It has roots in many different academic fields and its usefulness is very extensive.  Many authors have argued that agency problem prevails in every kind of organization and although information asymmetry is the leading causes for problem, the model is effective, as it assist in establishing effective relationships between parties (Mallin, Melis and Gaia, 2015).  Applying this theory in the management of the community college in question will indubitably lead to effectiveness in the decision making process, thus streamlining the governance practices that are adopted

The table below compares the two theories and helps in deciphering the theories usefulness.

Figure 2. Comparison between agency theory and institutional theory (Mamunet al 2013) 

Consequently, for this dissertation, the institutional and agency theories will be forwarded to the methodology section to help in the formulation of the survey questions and answer the research question.



In a dissertation, the methodology section allows the reader to evaluate the overall validity and reliability. The methodology section ascertains how data is collected or generated and how was it analyzed. This chapter explains the research methodology, explicates Saunders research onion, and outlines the research design, the research method, the population under study, the sampling procedure, and the method that was used to collect data.  The reliability and validity of the research instrument are addressed.  Ethical considerations pertaining to the research are also discussed.  Additionally it describes how the questionnaire is being formulated and which theories were brought forward from the literature review.


The issue of research methodology is important to any study. Research methodology outlines the exact methods used to identify, select, process, and analyze information about a topic. Through the research methodology, the research is improved as it guides in selecting a suitable framework for the dissertation. Additionally, it includes the detailed description of the kind of data and information collected. Further, the process contains the sources of data collection, the nature and number of participants.  Moreover, the significance of research methodology includes the proper planning of the different techniques to be applied. Essentially, research methodology is to disseminate the required information (related to selected research techniques and methods) within the dissertation so that the nature of study could become easily understood (Kumar, 2010).


Research Onion is an efficient model that is relevant in the completion of the entire research process. It was developed by Saunders et al. (2007) and illustrates the stages that must be covered when developing research. It provides detailed knowledge about the research process and is a model that explains a variety of techniques and processes that are available to the researcher. According to Saunders et al., the research process has several layers and approaches that must be used consistently when conducting research. In keeping with the research onion, consideration must be given to several issues before the central point and core of the onion, the data collection and data analysis is addressed. This process consists of six different stages namely philosophies, approaches, strategies, time horizons, and choices. (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2009).  Research Onion, has implications for the research design as it affects the types of research questions pursued, the methods used to answer these questions, and the way the findings are interpreted.

Figure 3: Research Onion (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009)


The Research philosophy is the first layer of the onion and the most crucial one.  The assumptions created by a research philosophy provides the explanation for how the research will be undertaken (Flick, 2011).  According to Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2009) Research philosophy refers to the set of beliefs concerning the nature of the subject being investigated and is often studied in the context of ontology, epistemology and axiology. Epistemology deals with what makes up valid information and how it can be obtained ontology makes you aware of the nature of reality and how it is understood, whilst axiology teaches how opinions impact the collection and analysis of the research..  Linked to epistemology is positivism, realism and interpretivism. Positivism is based on the idea that scientific knowledge is the true or acceptable knowledge, realism questions the reliability of the scientific knowledge and acknowledges that all theories can be reviewed and an interpretive philosophy emphasizes the use of qualitative analysis over quantitative analysis to obtain the results. These approaches helps to decide which method should be adopted and why. The selection of a philosophical position would influence data collection and data analysis. (Bryman, 2012). Fundamentally, it involves being aware of, and formulating your beliefs and assumptions based on the research questions. These assumptions will determine research strategy and the methods of that strategy. (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009).


                 Research approach is the second layer of the research onion. It is a plan of action that gives direction to conduct research thoroughly and efficiently. There are three main research approaches quantitative and qualitative approach, and mixed methods research. This layer of the research onion provides the option of deductive and inductive research. This is a basic but important choice researchers need to make while designing their research; the deductive choice, generally, leading to the use a quantitative methods while inductive choice leads to qualitative methods.

Figure 2. Parts of the Research Approach. Chetty (2016)

           3.4.1. DATA COLLECTION.

  Secondary and Primary data

                  Data collection methods can be divided into two categories: secondary and primary methods. . For this dissertation primary and secondary data was used.  Secondary data is used to gain an insight into expert opinions. It is the type of data that has already been published, and is derived from the work or opinions of other researchers. It entails second hand information which is already collected and recorded by any person other than the user. It was used for this dissertation because it is a readily available form of data that is collected from sources such as reports, books, journal articles, websites, government publications, internal records of an organization etc. (Newman, 1998). Moreover, it increases the sampling size of research and is chosen because of the efficiency and speed that comes with using existing resources. It is also cheaper and more accessible than the primary data and available when primary data cannot be obtained.

Primary data on the other hand data is collected through various methods like surveys, observations, questionnaires, personal interviews, telephonic interviews, focus groups, and case studies, and can be divided into two groups: quantitative and qualitative. (Bryman, 2012). This form of data provides a realistic look into the topic that is being researched.

By using these two forms of data in conjunction with each another, the deficiencies that are present in each will be mitigated. Primary data was collected using semi-structured interview questions and pencil questionnaires . The pencil questionnaires were administered using the drop and pick later method. The interviews were conducted using both telephone and face-to-face to get information about governance at SALCC. (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011). Qualitative and Quantitative research 

Research methods are split broadly into quantitative and qualitative methods. Qualitative research collects information that describes a topic instead of measuring it. It encompasses impressions, opinions, and views and  delves deep into the topic at hand to gain information about people’s motivations, thinking, and attitudes. In contrast quantitative data is designed to collect cold, hard facts as is structured and statistical. It provides support when needed, to draw general conclusions. (A) Qualitative research

            Qualitative research does not involve numbers or numerical data but uses words or language and provides an in-depth understanding of the problems or issues in their natural environment. The qualitative method attempts to gain an understanding of the underlying reasons and motivations for actions.  It consists of information that is usually gathered through interviews, focus groups and observations. It enables the gathering of detailed information on a topic and can be used to initiate research by discovering the problems or opportunities. Qualitative research is holistic, inductive, and naturalistic (Patton, 1980). The goal is to understand and interpret how various participants in a social setting construct the world around them (Glesne, 1999).

According David and Bitektine (2011) almost any subject can be examined in a qualitative way, and it is often the preferred method of investigation. Qualitative analysis is concerned with the quality of information and is particularly useful for exploring how and why things happen. Qualitative research encompasses an inductive approach and aims to generate ideas. In a nutshell, qualitative research is the way people feel about a subject and why.

  (B) Quantitative Research

Conversely, as the name suggests quantitative research is concerned with trying to quantify things; it asks questions such as ‘how long’, or how many’. Quantitative research is a type of empirical investigation. That means the research focuses on verifiable observations as opposed to theory or logic. This research is generally associated with the positivist/post positivist paradigm. Most often this type of research is expressed in numbers. Quantitative research highlights the quantification in data collection and is referred as a deductive approach by testing theories. (Saunders/Lewis/Thornhill 2011).

This type of research method uses close-ended questions because the researchers are typically looking at gathering guaranteed statistical data. Online surveys, questionnaires, and polls are preferable data collection tools used in quantitative research. Quantitative research usually has more respondents than qualitative research because it is easier to conduct a multiple-choice survey than a series of interviews or focus groups. Therefore it helps to answer broad questions.

    (C) Mixed Methods

Mixed methods research exist in the middle of this band because it comprises elements of both qualitative and quantitative approaches within the same study. This method provides a better understanding of the research problem. It enables researchers to search for a more holistic view of their research landscape, viewing the subject from different viewpoints and through varied research lenses. A mixed methods design is appropriate for answering research questions that neither quantitative nor qualitative methods could answer alone.

For this dissertation both qualitative and quantitative research techniques was adopted.  Based on the research questions and the objectives for this dissertation using mixed method design is the most appropriate approach, because both the quantitative and qualitative method allows researchers to be more confident of their results. The use of constant comparative analysis was considered appropriate to perfectly develop meaning from some of the qualitative data that was collected. (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011). This method is meant to compare the accounts of two different individuals with similar experiences as well as those with varying experiences concerning the same study topic (Palinkas et al., 2015).

      3.4.2. Deductive and Inductive

           The deductive analysis approach works from the general to the more specific, while the inductive approach works the other way, conclusion arises from observed patterns (Burney, 2008).


The deductive approach focuses on using literature to identify theories and ideas that will be used to test the data. This approach starts small and gets bigger. It starts with a specific theory that has been developed based on information or patterns that have been observed. It then seeks to test this theory and develop a broader theory from it.  For this dissertation existing literature was examined by reading existing theories on subject area and then testing suggestions that developed from those theories. While not all researchers follow a deductive approach, many do. Typically, a deductive approach is associated with quantitative research whilst an inductive approach is associated with qualitative research.


In contrast, the inductive approach involves collecting data and developing a theory based on the results of data analysis. It starts with a board theory and then focuses later on the smaller, more specific details, sometimes referred to as a move from the specific to the general. According to this approach, it begins with specific observations, which are used to produce generalized theories and conclusions. The reasons for using the inductive approach was that it takes into account the context where the research effort is active


This layer is concerned with how a researcher plans to collect data for the dissertation. A research strategy is a step-by-step plan of action that gives direction to your thoughts and efforts, enabling research to be conducted systematically and on schedule to produce quality results and detailed reporting. As Sanders et al (2009) suggests that the choice of research strategy is led by the questions needed to be answered.  

           3.5.1. Questionnaires

A questionnaire was chosen as one of the data collection instruments. Questionnaire is a  printed self-report form designed to elicit information that can be obtained through the written responses of individuals. The information obtained through a questionnaire is similar to that obtained by an interview, but the questions tend to have less depth (Burns & Grove 1993).Questionnaires are more systematic and structured and aimed at obtaining information from respondents in a direct and open manner. Shao (1999) points out that a questionnaire may be structured, consisting of direct questions to obtain factual data, or indirect semi structured, allowing more flexibility on the part of the interviewer in setting questions in an indirect manner, or probing for answers. Questionnaires can gather quantitative data, but can also gather qualitative information through open-ended questions.

For this dissertation questionnaires were used to ensure a high response rate. The questionnaires were distributed to respondents to complete and were collected personally. Questionnaire were used as they required less time and energy to administer and offered a level of anonymity because names were not required on the completed questionnaire. They were administered through drop and pick later method due to the likely busy schedules of the targeted respondents. Paper pencil questionnaires were used. (Sandelowski, 2000).  The paper pencil format was used because of its reliability and the fact that it is easy to analyze. (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011). The questionnaires are aimed at investigating the opinions of a cross section of stakeholders in an effort to establish an appropriate framework and answer research question.

3.5.2. Interviews

The interviews consisted of open-ended questions that took about 30 minutes to administer. Note and check observations was used for ideas which contradicted or enhanced the original ideas gathered from policy documents (Silverman, 2000), which in effect was the primary method of data collection. According to Rossman and Rallis (2003), “in-depth interviewing is the hallmark of qualitative research”. They suggests that in-depth interviewing is very important in order for the researcher to understand how participants view their worlds, and both interviewer and interviewee to ‘co-construct’ meaning. Furthermore, according to Marshall and Rossman (1999:108) “an interview is a useful way to get large amounts of data quickly.

For the purpose of this dissertation, one-to-one interviews were conducted with four deans presently employed at SALCC, one principal, two former principals, two Ministry of Education (MOE) representatives, and the current Chairperson of the Board of Governors of SALCC. The purpose of the interviews was to elicit these individuals’ perspectives on governance in higher education, especially at SALCC.  Open ended questions are asked in an effort to gather as much information as possible.

3.5.3. Case Study

A case study design is used when the subject being studied is a single entity and has definite boundaries (Merriam, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994).  It may include participants own accounts and tend not to look at cause and effect, rather they focus upon exploring and describing. Considering that the research question deals with how recognized Higher Education governance theories can enhance operations, the case study design is particularly useful, for this dissertation, because it can answesr how, what and why questions.

  3.6. Sampling technique and sample size.

         The dissertation applied purposive sampling or deliberate sampling technique to select 50 participants for the study. This was based on accessibility and availability of respondents.  The eligibility criteria was a population of individuals who understood and were knowledgeable of the subject. Participants had to be past or present employees of SALCC, or persons who worked in higher education systems.  The researcher specifically selected participants who would be able to contribute to the research topic and who would be willing to share their experiences, as well as express their challenges and enrich the researcher’s understanding of the subject (Crabtree & Miller, 1992)

The sample size was a total of 50. Ten individuals were interviewed these included, four Deans two MOE officials, one principal, two former principals and chairperson of the BOG. The remaining forty participants were made up of faculty, students, heads of departments and support staff. These participants had worked at the college for more than ten years and were known to the researcher.

Figure 3 below is a list of the ten respondents who comprised those interviewed. They were selected because of their involvement in policy making and implementation. These were the most appropriate people to be interviewed because of their first-hand knowledge with policy matters and its implementation.


1 Chairperson/ BOG SALCC
2 Minister Of Education MOE
3 Permanent Secretary MOE
4 Current Principal SALCC
5 Former Principal 1 Retired
6 Former Principal 2 Educator

FIGURE 3. List of Interviewed Participants

The following are descriptions of participants, which explain why they were chosen for this dissertation.

The Chairperson was selected because of the responsibility to oversee the strategic planning of the institution coupled with the facts that she acts as a bridge between higher education administrators, SALCC and the Ministry Of Education. The ability to provide documents as well as intimate knowledge of the relationship made her an appropriate participant.

The Minister of Education is charged with the overall responsibility for policy issues related to higher education and reviewing of higher education policies enacting laws and developing educational policies, making that contribution invaluable. The MOE official were selected for the dissertation because of the shared experiences of working in the higher education system. They advise on financial matters, and is responsible for the development and maintenance of the financial systems of educational institutions. The enforcement of financial policies by the MOE made that contribution useful.

The former Principals were selected because they were able to provide useful information regarding the relationship between SALCC and the Ministry of Education over the years. They were responsible for direct oversight of day-to-day operations of core education activities including faculty planning and university wide planning as well as dealing with issues related to policy. These individuals had both worked at the institution for more than 5 years.

Present Principal is the academic and administrative officer of the institution. By virtue of his position, he has the task of coordinating the transformation process from policy into action plans. His understanding of government higher education access policies and role in implementing these policies was important for the realization of this dissertation.

The Deans are a part of the Academic Board and Finance committees. They are responsible for the development of the curriculum, delivery of programs conducting systematic assessment of capacity for educational policy implementation and the development and overall oversight of SALCC.

     3.7. Reliability and Validity of Data.

.              The quality of a research is evaluated by reliability and validity concepts. These concepts postulate how well a method, technique or test measures something. Reliability is concerned about the regularity of a measure, and validity is about the accuracy of a measure.  Only if another researcher, using the same procedure and studying the same phenomenon, arrives at similar or comparable conclusion is a study is reliable. Consequently, it is important that a comprehensive protocol be maintained in case others may be interested in checking reliability (Sekaran, 2003). Validity and reliability are important considerations in designing a qualitative study, analyzing the results, and judging the quality of the study (Cohen et al., 2007) Cohen et al. (2007) suggests that, triangulation can be used in order to preserve both the validity and the reliability of an item of research. This is where two or more methods of data collection are used to study a specific issue in order to ensure validity and reliability of data.

This research adopted the position and triangulation method to ensure reliability (Ali, and Yusof, 2011). Through triangulation, the use of several research methods like interviews, and questionnaires in data collection were employed (Abowitz, & Toole, 2009). Obtaining the information through different sources contributed in making the results highly reliable. Before processing the responses, the completed questionnaires were checked for completeness and consistency Participants were carefully selected and were willing and appropriate participants.  All interviews were recorded and transcribed in verbatim. This was essential in an effort to ensure the original meaning of the participants responses were not lost.

                3.8. Generalizability.

                      During the process of generalizing the data collected is always important in making sure that everything collected is representative of the study population (Williams, & Vaske, 2003). Generalization helps the research make conclusive results concerning the subject without indicating any form of discrimination. Some of the methods that were used to generalize the data included adopting the right sampling technique, making constant comparisons, and triangulation (Ali, & Yusof, 2011). Furthermore, all the data was checked to make it error-free during the documentation process. Each of the methods and concepts applied were made in a clear way to avoid mixing up issues during the generalization process (Chesney et al., 2006).

3.9. Data Analysis

Data was coded and analyzed using descriptive analysis with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).   To understand it easily the results were presented using tables, graphs and chart.


Given the importance of ethics in conducting research and the challenges around conducting research, several ethical considerations were taken into account to ensure that the study was conducted in an appropriate manner (Babbie & Mouton, 2001).  To comply with ethical considerations all participants provided verbal consent to be interviewed and to participate in the research.  They willingly participated once the research purpose and process were explained to them (Leedy, 2000; Neuman, 2000). All participants, were  reassured  that  their  answers  were  treated  as confidential and used only for academic purposes and purposes of  the  particular  research. Anonymity, and confidentiality were ensured during administration of the questionnaires. Additionally, information was provided about the researcher in the event of further questions or complaints.


            The goal of this chapter was to outline the research methods used to answer the research questions. This chapter addressed the research onion, population, sampling procedure, data collection instrument and data collection procedure. A discussion of the procedure, study participants, data collection, and interview questions outlined the specifics of how the study was conducted and who participated in the study, how we have identified suitable groups for study and broad procedures for data analysis and software intervention.  .

The next Chapter details the analysis process and describes the findings of the research. It presents an analysis and discussion of the data obtained and  provides the study results, demonstrating that the methodology described in Chapter 3 was followed.


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