Identity orientation and stakeholder engagement—the corporatisation of elite schools

Published date01 May 2015
Date01 May 2015
Academic Paper
Identity orientation and stakeholder
engagementthe corporatisation of
elite schools
Jennifer Bartlett
*, Paula McDonald
and Barbara Pini
QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Grifth University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Identity orientation provides a means to understand the social motivations of organisational relationships and
organisational policy and practices. This study uses identity orientation to understand the highly marketised context
of independent eliteschools in Australia and how they relate to stakeholders to straddle their roles as social institu-
tions that are increasingly required to operate in a corporate manner. Interviews with managers in quite new school
roles such as marketing communication and business management were conducted in non-government schools to
understand the schoolsexternal orientations, coveted internal member traits, and frames of reference. The study
shows that, in contrast to existing literature on the rhetoric of schools as focusing on the child, there was a strong
emphasis on individualistic orientations in schools that saw stakeholders in instrumental terms of resources and
connections, saw teachers as providing an innovative and leading edge, and used other prestigious schools as their
frame of reference. To a lesser extent, schools would also be interested in the relationships with families, teachers, and
the community for their own means. There were very few instances where the identity orientation was contributing
to society, instead, focusing on university and network outcomes for pupils. Using identity orientation provides a
theoretical lens to connect organisational governancet o stakeholderengagement by providing insights into an organisations
identity including practices and behaviours, in relation to others. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Keywords: Identity, Stakeholder engagement, Governance, Schools
Recent debates around the conguration of educa-
tion in Australia, including concerns related to
teaching quality, funding models, national curricu-
lum, and standardised testing, have been highly
contested. Despite this, the internal management
of schools has remained largely outside the gaze of
even educational researchers, much less scholars of
communication and organisational studies. Australias
education system is characterised by funding and
governance models that are unique in the world.
Whereas comparable countries such as Canada and
the UK are part of a worldwide movement of parental
choice and privatisation in education, around 34% of
Australian school students attend non-government or
independentschools compared with around 67% of
students in Canada and the UK (Australia, 2012).
Schools and educators have both shaped and
responded to the recongured educational environ-
ment in business-likeways. For example, in order
to differentiate themselves and attract students,
government, and community support, schools have
adopted a consciousness about their reputation and
engaged in corporate managerialist practices such as
entrepreneurism and competitiveness (Cribb & Ball,
2005). However,schools also face a number of inherent
*Correspondence to:Jennifer Bartlett,School of AMPR, Queensland
University of Technology, Level 10 Gardens Point, 2 George St,
Brisbane, Australia, 4000.
Journal of Public Affairs
Volume 15 Number 2 pp 201209 (2015)
Published online 19 February 2014 in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pa.1510
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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