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Weaknesses in universities’ management systems - Doc. No. 3:3 (2004-2005)

The Office of the Auditor General indicates that the universities’ internal management systems do not adequately ensure assessment of performance and attainment of targets, and that systems for proper internal control have not been developed to a sufficient extent.
Published 11/4/2004 3:00 PM

These are two of the conclusions in Document no. 3:3 (2004–2005) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the management of the universities, which was submitted to the Storting on 4 November. The objective of the audit was to consider whether university managers have established adequate tools and procedures to manage and follow up activities.

Besides the central level, the audit embraces the Faculties of Medicine and the Faculties of the Arts, plus the Departments of Social Medicine and the Departments of Nordic Languages and Comparative Literature at all four universities in Norway.

The audit demonstrates that a lack of targets and instruments and inadequate definition of responsibility entail fundamental weaknesses in the systems for implementation of management by objectives and results. For example:

  • Lines of responsibility and authority for managers are not defined clearly enough in job descriptions, instructions and other types of formal documents, as required by the Ministry.
  • Planning documents for annual planning specify only to a limited degree which concrete objectives and performance targets are to be attained for various aspects of the activities.
  • Management instruments and responsibility for implementation are not laid down in plans to a significant extent, and reporting of results is seldom linked to the targets for the activity.
  • The Storting adopted the principle of formulation of objectives and reporting of performance in state agencies in the 1985 budgetary reform.

The audit demonstrates that beyond the annual reporting of target figures, formal routines or systems are seldom formulated for how objectives and performance are to be followed up. Fixed routines have consistently been created for financial control at all the universities; despite this, a quarter of the managers stated that the financial reports are hard to understand and that they provide too little overview.

The Ministry of Education and Research agrees that the audit indicates a number of challenges for the management of the universities, and states that it is going to focus on the matters demonstrated in the report through continued follow-up of the Quality Reform in Higher Education and in the formal management dialogue with the institutions.

This report is available in Norwegian on the Office of the Auditor General’s website – – or can be ordered from the University bookshop Akademika, tel. +47 22 11 67 70.

Deferment of publication of public documents linked to the performance audit report ceases to be effective from 4 November 2004.

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