Sustainability of private higher education institution in Malaysia: Using Balanced Scorecard approach
Nowadays, economy shifts towards knowledge-based economy. For people to be competitive in an intense environment, they will try to improve themselves, and hence demand for entering tertiary education is rapidly increasing. Public universities in Malaysia were not able to supply sufficient places for the increased demand. Hence, government divided the education system into public and private education system. Private higher education institution (PHEI) in Malaysia consists of universities, university colleges, virtual/e-universities, open universities, overseas branch campuses, and IT academies (Anon., n.d.).
Since the PHEIs introduced the twinning programs and foreign degree programs, enrolments of PHEIs raised 60.1% in 1998 - 2000 (Anon., n.d.). These increased demand encouraged PHEIs in rapidly expansion. According to the statistic from Ministry of Higher Education (Higher Education Malaysia, 2010), number of PHEIs in 2010 are 516 and it leads to the competition of PHEI becomes tough. PHEIs in Malaysia face with some challenges, for instance, PHEIs did not receive funds from government. Malaysia's public universities are heavily subsidised, therefore, its fees are much lower than PHEIs. As a result, PHEIs are less competitive than public universities. According to Arokiasamy et al. (2009), PHEIs also confront other challenges, such as promotion issues, multitask responsibilities, uncertain structure, and emphasis on research without proper facilities and remuneration. On the other hand, Umashankar and Dutta (2007) state that, an institution failure is due to deficient strategic planning, poor organisation structure, recruitment and retention of staff, ineffective internal control, poor budgeting and a lack of communication and feedback.
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Consequently, to improve the competitiveness and confront the challenges, PHEIs are necessary to establish a set of performance management tools which assist in constructing objectives and standards (Chen et al., 2006). In addition Lee (2006) indicates that, outcome of an institution, such as student's academic attainment, students' quality and effectiveness of service, is not caused by single factor, but it is the result of well-planed and managed performance-oriented management practice. Thereby, balanced scorecard (BSC) is the most suitable performance management tool to improve institution competitiveness because it advocates enhancing an institution through balanced perspective. Besides that, Firgio and Krumwiede (1999) proved that, BSC is more effective than other performance management systems (cited in Kettunen, 2006). Therefore, institution can select BSC as its performance management practice to enhance its competitive strength.
Traditionally, organisations used financial measure to measure their performance. However, solely depending on financial measure, or lag indicator will threaten the organisations' profit because it promotes short term plan (Chavan, 2009; Papenhausen and Einstein, 2006). In addition, Karathanos and Karathanos (2005) commented that, only concentrating on financial measure will lead to ineffectiveness in identifying drivers or activities. On the other hand, BSC focuses on financial and non-financial measures, which include financial perspective, customer perspective, internal process perspective, and learning and growth perspective (Pineno, 2008). BSC is widely used for profit organization, and it assists the companies in achieving significant success. Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia states that, most of the PHEIs are profit enterprise; hence, BSC can be used in measuring its performance. Even the PHEIs are not a profit organisation, BSC is also flexible to implement in non-profit organisation, such as educational institution (Papenhausen and Einstein, 2006; Dorweiler and Yakhou, 2005) This performance management system is able to assist PHEIs in improving quality and meeting customer demands (Chen et al., 2009) and finally obtaining sustainability.
2.0 Research Objectives
To examine whether Balanced Scorecard is useful in assisting a private higher education institution gaining an edge over other rivals.
To observe how Balanced Scorecard helps an institution in achieving sustainability.
To identify what benefits Balanced Scorecard can offer to institution and how does this benefits create competitive advantage.
3.0 Research Questions
Does Balanced Scorecard helpful for an institution in accomplishing sustainability?
How does Balanced Scorecard assist an institution in obtaining competitive strength?
What benefits can institution achieve through implementing balanced scorecard approach?
Through the implementation of Balanced Scorecard, a private higher education institution is able to attain its sustainability.
The management processes of Balanced Scorecard consist of translating, communicating, business planning, and feedback and learning, will enable an institution to achieve desirable competitive advantage.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Balanced Scorecard can contribute to operational efficiency, high quality of service, better teamwork and better understanding.
Communicating and Linking
Feedback and Learning
Private Higher Education Institution in Malaysia
5.0 Theoretical framework
6.0 Literature Review
6.1 Institutions' Strategy and BSC
PHEIs in Malaysia face many challenges, to sustain in the market; deans of PHEIs should clear about their strategy, strategic positioning and alignment to the competitive environment (Thomas, 2007). Balanced scorecard enables an institution formulates strategy (Laitinen, 2006; Dorweiler and Yakhou, 2005). For different institution, it might implement distinct strategy. As Kettunen (2005) mentioned that, for early-stage of life cycle, they should implement rapid growth strategy; in the middle of life-cycle will set profitable growth as their strategy; and the mature end of life cycle generally defined profitability as strategy. In addition, he also states that, for an institution to sustain in the market, it is sufficient to maintain cost and revenue in balance.
According to Kettunen (2005), strategy describes the movement from mission (present position) to vision (future position). Mission is usually the target which an institution is likely to realise (Punniyamoorthy and Murali, 2008). An example of mission is, "the advancement of excellence in the creation, sharing and application of knowledge, typically described in terms of teaching, scholarship/research, and public service/outreach" (Cardoso et al., 2005, pg.1). Vision of an institution could be emphasising the regional development.
Most of the institution will have mission and vision statement. According to Chen et al. (2006), mission and vision are significant for an institution because with a valued mission and vision, an institution is able to enhance educational quality and sustain in the industry.
6.2 Institution Sustainability and BSC Management Process
After setting strategy, mission and vision, managers/deans usually find difficult to translate strategy into an understandable objective, and performance measure at different dimension of the institution (Davis, 1996). Given this situation, employees will possibly do not contribute to the organisation effectively, and this in turn will create a disadvantage for the institution and it might lag behind the competitiveness. BSC provides a framework to support strategy adaptation and realisation (Achterbergh et al., 2003; Punniyamoorthy and Murali, 2008); hence it plays an important role in assisting an institution in attaining significant sustainability.
Kaplan and Norton, the founder of BSC distinguish four management processes, which are translating the vision, communicating and linking, business planning and feedback and learning, These processes is to formulate, test, adapt and adjust the strategy (Achterbergh et al., 2003).
6.2.1 Translating the vision
Since an institution has its own strategy, vision and mission, BSC provides a framework to translate the strategy into a clear and understandable objective. Tohidia et al. (2010) identify BSC as a strategic planning method, which is used to achieve goals and vision.
Comparing to traditional performance measure, BSC provides an integrated performance measure. In BSC, it turns the strategy into four perspectives, including lead indicators and lag indicators, to provide an adequate evaluation about the institution's performance. The four perspectives reflect cause-and-effect relationships, finance objectives are aligned with internal process objective; learning and growth objectives drive to customer perspective. As a result, management can effectively manage the operations and easier to achieve the strategy.
Kaplan and Norton also classify BSC as a performance measurement system. As Chen et al. (2006) and Chen et al. (2009) mention that, an effective BSC must first have proper key performance indicators (KPI) to measure achievement level, and thus achieving institution's goals. The founders of BSC, Kaplan and Norton commented that, 'if you can't measure it, you can't manage it' (cited in Kettunen, 2005). To enable an institution manage its performance, the management must set a balance set of indicators and decide what to benchmark and what performance will it measure.
These are the example of strategy themes, objectives and KPI of each perspective of an institution:
Strategic Themes - completed financial structure (Chen et al., 2006); revenue growth and mix, cost reduction/productivity improvement, and asset utilization (Bose and Thomas, 2007).
Objectives - increasing income, increasing assets usage rate, and reducing human resources costs (Chen et al., 2006).
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Measures - return on investment (ROI), return on equity (ROE), and operating income (Bose and Thomas, 2007); return on capital; improved shareholder value; and asset utililisation (Chavan, 2009).
Strategic themes - accord with customer expectation, promote school image (Chen et al., 2006).
Objectives - regional development, student satisfaction, competitive advantage of companies, high quality of education and applied research and development (Kettunen, 2007).
Measures - customer satisfaction level (Chen et al., 2006); school reputation, alumnus performance (Chen et al., 2009); retention, new customer acquisition, customer profitability, market and account share (Bose and Thomas, 2007); ratio, registration rate, product/service attributes; and customer relationships (Chavan, 2009); continuation of customers, graduation rates and enrolments of students from underrepresented population groups (Wu et al., 2010); employer satisfaction (Thomas, 2007).
Internal Process Perspective
Strategic themes - Organisational learning and management, higher quality of staff members, excellent learning environment (Chen et al., 2006).
Objectives - promoting information technology and establishing performance leading cultures, increasing staff quality and enhancing staff administrative ability, establish a high quality service process, complete teaching facilities, and the provision of excellent teaching quality (Chen et al., 2006).
Measures - develop products and services; deliver products and services; and "post-sales" services (Chavan, 2009); research quality and teaching quality (Thomas, 2007).
Learning and Growth Perspective
Strategic theme -higher quality of staff members (Chen et al., 2006).
Objectives - Employee education, successful strategy implementation (Crain, 2009).
Measures - customer performance and delivery service (Antunes et al., 2009), employee capabilities; information system capabilities; motivation; and empowerment and alignment (Chavan, 2009).
KPI are developed to assess the achievement of the objective and it provides a signal about whether the overall strategy is workable (Wu et al., 2010; Thomas, 2007). In addition, Cardoso et al. (2005) state that, BSC is a management information system; KPI is able to measure the organisational performance, evaluate the accomplishment of the goals and correct the strategy if it is not feasible. It can be then promoting an institution competition and enable an institution to surpass the competitors and finally achieving sustainability.
6.2.2 Communicating and linking
After translating the strategy into strategic themes, objectives and measures, it is necessary to communicate and link to the staff within the institution. Communicating and linking is an important step in the BSC management process. Although the strategy is workable, it will not be attained if the staff did not understand about the objectives and their role.
In this process, dean of an institution has responsibility for discussing and communicating their strategy throughout the institution and link the strategy to departmental and individual objectives (Thomas, 2007). When dean debates the strategy and objectives to the staff, it promotes a chance for staff to negotiate about the strategy. Staffs in turn enhance their understanding of the strategy and objectives. Therefore, BSC provides a framework for communication and implementation of strategy, and it has been seen as a communication tool (Kettunen, 2005, 2007, 2008).
According to Punniyamoorthy and Murali (2008), BSC as a performance management system, it aligns the vision and mission with all the functional requirements and day-to-day operation. With the top-down alignment of vision, it provides a direction for staff in how they should contribute effectively to the institution's targets (Chen et al., 2009; Chavan, 2009). As Kettunen (2005) indicates that, a BSC works best when it inspires employees to innovatively attain the objective, and hence help an institution to sustain. If they accomplish the objectives, management can then link the employees' contribution to rewards, and result in easily allocating the resources (Dorweiler and Yakhou, 2005). In addition to ease the resource allocation, reward is an encouragement and motivation for employees to effectively and efficiently done their job.
BSC encourages the establishment of coordinated scorecards at every level of an institution (Atkinson, 2006). Every dimension and staff is participant on strategy accomplishment. In an institution, for example management and lecturers make a concerted effort on accomplishing a consistent goal (e.g. improve student quality). Therefore, BSC is an approach promotes better teamwork at the top level and better communication at all (Kettunen, 2006b).
Strategy map is an instrument of BSC for communication, not only to internal staff, but also external stakeholders. Strategy map is a graphical representation which includes the objectives of each perspective, and describes the cause-and-effect relationships of four perspectives (Chen et al., 2006; Kettunen, 2005, 2006a, 2006b, 2007). In some level, words cannot explicitly transmit information or objective to people. In contrast, a visual representation enables people to easily comprehend something. Strategy map, as a visual representation, illustrates how objectives can be achieved. From the diagram, employees can understand what are the departmental targets and individual objectives, and how does it affect the other dimensions of an institution, and eventually whether they will attain the ultimate objective. Thereby, it is able to enhance staff understanding of institution's strategy and their role in contributing to strategy execution. On the other hand, it also facilitates the understanding of external stakeholders. Investors and shareholders might improve their confidence in the institution, because they realise that the strategic objectives are achievable. As a result, they will be willing to invest more capital in the institution. The invested capital can be used for development of the institution, and hence increase their competitiveness. The following is an example of an institution's strategy map.
(Source from: Tohidia, et al. (2010))
6.2.3 Business Planning
This management process also plays a significant role in attaining sustainability. Management plots a series of plans to accomplish each perspective's objectives.
Learning and growth is evident that it is a most influential factor of extension education (Wu et al., 2010). As BSC is a causal relationship, it will affect other perspectives such as customer perspective and financial perspective. Learning and growth perspective thus is significant to institution's sustainability. Wu et al. (2010) emphasise that, for an institution to have sustainable operation and development, they have to rely on continual innovation and growth. In other words, institution should not only consider the internal operation processes, but also innovation process. Innovation process is a tool for institution to add value to customers both the long term and short term (Bose and Thomas, 2007). Comparing to public university of Malaysia, government provide grants and financial assistance to those universities for research (Arokiasamy et al., 2009). Arokiasamy et al. (2009) suggest that, to gain competitive advantage, PHEIs have to upgrade its academic qualifications and to establish a culture of teaching, research and services among academics. According to Chen et al. (2006), employees are encouraged to be innovative, they should participate in quality improvement programs to enhance organisational management and improves the quality target of staffs, and as a result, learning and growth perspective is the basis of BSC. Chen et al. (2006) also stress that, when staff are fostered quality awareness, it will enhance institution internal process and administrative efficiency. In addition, institution should invest more on human capital to improve the quality of its lecturers and administrators, and so they will provide higher quality of service to customers (Kettunen, 2007).
Kettunen (2006a) indicates that, the objectives in learning and growth perspective have to be reached by objective in the internal process to achieve the desired outcomes in the customer perspective. Internal process perspective drives the stakeholder satisfaction and the institution's financial outcomes (Papenhausen and Einstein, 2006). Hence, Wu et al. (2010) conclude internal process perspective as the most important perspective among four perspectives. Cardoso et al. (2005) indicate that institution should enhance its core business areas such as teaching, researching and public service to improve institutional effectiveness. Therefore, institution must provide a high quality of service process, excellent of teaching quality and best teaching facilities (Chen et al., 2006). By focusing on job specification, integration of ICT and continuous improvement of the work process will help an institution to achieve the target above (Lee, 2006). Job specification should be based on sharing of work and avoid overlapping work (Kettunen, 2007). Integration of ICT will enhance the operational effectiveness through the use of advanced technology. Thereby, this dimension enables to add value to customers by providing high quality of service and it will encourage cost efficiency. In addition, Wu et al. (2010) comment that internal operations are the core value of institution, if it can be continually improved and adjusted, institution's overall performance will be upgraded.
Chen et al. (2006) and Lee (2006) have a same view, which is for an institution continuously improves its capabilities will lead to better performance in their customer perspective. Chen et al. (2006) also comment that, enhancement of customer satisfaction will not only result in higher business profit, but it also facilitates business development. Besides that, Kettunen (2005) also prove that only when customers are extremely satisfied to the service, they likely to continue their behaviour to consume in the institution. Thus, it is significant to improve both internal and external customer satisfaction. Internal customers of an institution include lecturers, administrators and students; external customers are government, general public and parents (Chen et al., 2006). As PHEIs in Malaysia's revenues depends on student's tuition fees, institution must first and foremost look into student's requirement. According to Umashankar and Dutta (2007), to satisfy students' requirement, an institution is necessary to provide a better teaching environment and learning environment. They also state that a good learning environment includes facilities, accommodation, physical environment, policies and procedures, and interpersonal relations and communication. On the other hand, institution should promote societal responsibility to satisfy external customer. For example, they should attend public charity and community cultural events to improve its image and reputation (Chen et al., 2006; Chen et al., 2009).
Financial perspective is a picture of economic consequences, and shows the effect of customer perspective because the strategy realisation of the value proposition will translate into financial outcome (Bose and Thomas, 2007; Papenhausen and Einstein, 2006; Tohidia et al., 2010). According to the research made by Sivalingam (n.d.), average fee of PHEIs Malaysia range from RM7, 500 to RM 13, 000 per annum. It is much higher than public university in Malaysia (RM1, 400). Hence, institution should manage its resource properly and look for own financial assistance (Arokiasamy et al., 2009). Chen et al. (2006) express that to properly manage resources; institution should effectively use their classroom, library and other teaching facilities. Besides, computerised system can reduce the number of employees, or it must inspect and give training to unsuitable employees, and result in overall competitiveness. On the other hand, Arokiasamy et al. (2009) comment that Malaysia's PHEIs are required to generate its own revenues. Kettunen (2007) suggests that, institution should seek efficient ways to produce high-quality output given by the limited financial resources. They provide an example, increase the financial resources to favour better service or highlight the economical production of services. In other words, financial perspective concerns with how the institution plans or controls the limited financial resources to derive maximum benefits (Lee, 2006).
6.2.4 Feedback and Learning
According to Self (2004), intelligibility of BSC gives a clear picture about its performance in the form of pie chart. In addition to monitor the performance, BSC assists an institution in managing performance (Umashankar and Dutta, 2007; Karathanos and Karathanos, 2005). BSC, as a performance evaluation tool, provides feedback on the strategy realisation process. It can identify the source of problem why an institution unable to achieve its strategy themes or objectives (Thomas, 2007). Therefore, by evaluating the performance, institution can use BSC to promote the necessary changes in institutional operations. McDevitt et al. (2008) and Kettunen (2005) indicate that BSC is not only a tool for linking the mission and strategy but it also a learning model that supports continuous improvement and environmental responsiveness. Since BSC provides feedback and promote continuous improvement, BSC therefore can assist an institution in redefining the strategy and mission to account of the changing environment (Chen et al., 2006; Bose and Thomas, 2007; Kettunen, 2005).
7.0 Research Method
7.1 Sampling Method
The sample population of PHEIs in Malaysia is 516. I will choose 400 of institution as my sample frame. I select the probability sample as my sample technique. Probability sample is "the chance, or probability, of each case being selected from the population is known and is equal for all cases" (Saunders et al., 2006, pg. 207). Within probability sampling techniques, stratified random sampling is most suitable for this research proposal because it is easily accessible and less cost. Stratified random sampling divides the sample population into relevant strata and it might obtain a more accurate result because different level of institution might have different outcomes. Therefore, I divide the PHEIs into several groups, such as universities and university colleges, colleges, overseas branch campuses and others. I will then choose systematic random sample to examine the results. The results will show proportionately to the size of each group and the ultimate result of research will be easily to evaluate and explain.
Since the cause and effect are already known, I am examining and observing the effects of BSC brought to institutions. Hence, this research proposal is an explanatory study. In this study, I start with constructing hypotheses to examine the BSC theory and determining the relationship between BSC and the sustainability of PHEIs. Therefore, deductive epistemology is my research measurement. Deductive is used to test the theory and explain the causal relationship between variables (Saunders et al., 2006). Epistemology is "concerns what constitutes acceptable knowledge in a field of study" (Saunders et al., 2006, pg. 102). As this proposal is developed in quantitative and qualitative point of view, this study uses realism as research orientation. Realism is that "what the sense show us is reality, is the truth; the objects have an existence independent of human mind" (Saunders et al., 2006, pg. 104).
7.3 Data-Collection method
As mentioned above, I am using deductive approach as my measurement. To test the hypotheses in this research proposal, I propose to use survey as my data-collection method. Survey is the way to collect a large amount of data from a sizable population in a highly economical way (Saunders et al., 2006). I select survey as data-collection method because it allows me to compare the results from different categories of PHEIs, such as university, university college, college and other types of PHEI. Besides, through comparing the results from different characteristics of PHEIs will enable me to have better understanding about the effectiveness of BSC in different class of institution. In addition, I plan to use mixed method as data collection technique, which combining qualitative method and quantitative method. Mixed method is an ideal technique in this research proposal because the outcomes of BSC consist of quantitative and qualitative information. Qualitative information comprises customer satisfaction, institution's image and reputation, operational effectiveness, process efficiency, staff commitment and finally institution's sustainability. Qualitative information is financial outcomes such as ROI and ROA. Mixed method, thereby, will have better understanding about the significant effects of BSC brought to institution. I will choose to use semi-structured questionnaire as qualitative method; and structured questionnaire as qualitative method. The targets of semi-structured questionnaire are lecturers, administrators and general public; student will be my target for qualitative method. Semi-structured questionnaire will give a place for interviewees to express their real feelings about BSC and its outcomes. Structured questionnaire, on the other hand, is a simple way for students to answer their satisfaction level. As a result, mixed method will provide me a wider picture about outcomes of BSC.
In this study I tend to use longitudinal study. As Saunders et al. (2006) mention, longitudinal study is a study which concern with the change and development, and it is able to give the researcher a powerful insight into developments over a period. I prefer to use longitudinal study because it gives me a better understanding about the performance of an institution before and after implementing BSC. From there, I can clearly understand how BSC benefits to the institution.
In order to ensure the reliability of this research, I will try to reduce the participant bias and participant error. I will reduce participant error by choosing a neutral time for doing survey. It might ensure that the participants are answering the questionnaire in a fair emotion. I will explain each question to the participants and the motive I construct this research, so that the participants grasp the objective of this survey and answer the questionnaire truly. On the other hand, to minimise the threat of validity, I will make sure the survey is made during a suitable time-frame, and have a larger sample frame to ensure the validity of the research.
7.4 Possible results
The hypotheses I set in this research proposal are: BSC is able to assist an institution in achieving sustainability through its management process and obtaining certain benefits from the implementation. Malaysia's PHEIs probably will achieve sustainability because an institution can efficiently transform its strategy and mission to employees through the management process. Besides, BSC as an information management system, performance management tool and communication tool, might benefit an institution in terms of operational effectiveness, co-operation of employees, high quality of service, and increase educational quality. Therefore, the results obtained might be consistent with the hypotheses.
In Malaysia, demand for tertiary education is rapidly increasing. Private higher education institution Malaysia is facing many challenges, such as public university in Malaysia, research, and funding. Balanced scorecard is deemed to maintain or improve an institution's sustainability. Comparing to other researchers, they tend to analyse how four perspectives benefits to an organisation or institution. In this research proposal, I focus on management processes of BSC. Management process includes translating, communicating and linking, business planning and feedback and learning, which provides wider picture than just emphasised four perspectives.
In the beginning stage, an institution should concentrate on strategy formulation; it assists an institution in setting strategy, vision and mission. A strategy setting should on the basis of its life cycle. For example, a mature institution will define profitability as its strategy. It will be then translated into a set of balanced measures and objectives. BSC includes both lag indicators and lead indicators because solely concentrate on lag indicator will encourage the management acts in short term and ignore the profitability in long term. Therefore, BSC concerns on whole picture, which are financial perspective, customer perspective, internal process perspective and learning and growth perspective. After translating the strategy and objectives, BSC, as a communication tool, communicates the objectives to staff and link the objectives to day-to-day work. In the communication process, it is usually used strategy map to communicate to internal and external stakeholder. Therefore, staff will have better understanding, teamwork and efficient daily operation. The following process is business planning. An institution is necessary to take action to accomplish each perspective's objectives. In this process, management is responsible for directing the staffs in completing the strategy theme(s). Finally, BSC provides feedback to institution and adjust and redefine strategy to account for changing environment. This continuous improvement criterion enables an institution to obtain competitive advantage over others.
However, BSC do give some limitations to institution. Throughout the management processes, BSC only able to identify the problems but did not provide the solutions for institution. In addition, BSC is a causal relationship; one perspective failure will affect other perspectives. The causes (internal process perspective and learning and growth perspective) require high staff commitment. An institution has to carefully manage its staffs and provide sufficient encouragement, and so staffs will contribute efficiently and effectively to operations.
It can be concluded that, BSC, as a performance measurement system, communication system and strategic management system, provides higher benefits than costs to institution. The whole benefits will bring significant sustainability for private higher education institution in Malaysia.
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