Seminar Series

Achieving radical change: A comparative study of public-sector accounting in Westminster and Scotland


Prof Noel Hyndman


Queen’s University Belfast

Time & Place

Thu, 10 May 2018 12:00:00 NZST in Law 411

All are welcome


The paper focuses on strategies and ‘spoken discourses’ used to construct legitimation around change at the individual level. Comparing changes in financial accounting, budgeting and performance management at two government levels (Westminster and Scotland), it explores the use of legitimation strategies in the implementation of accounting change and its perceived outcomes. The study shows that changes introduced to enhance ‘rational’ decision making are often received as pushed by some source of authority. Regardless of the interviewees’ background and level, the results suggest that for radical accounting change to embed, it is necessary for it to be perceived as rational, rather than merely driven by authorisation-based pressures. Conversely, incremental change is associated with modest legitimation via rationalisation and delegitimation based on pathos and rationalisation.


Noel is Professor Emeritus (and Visiting Research Professor) in Accounting at Queen’s University Belfast, as well as being Director of the Centre for Not-for-profit and Public-sector Research. He has previously held Visiting Professorships at the University of Ottawa in Canada and the University of Sydney in Australia. His main research interests have centred on performance management and accounting change in public services. Noel is a member of the Executive Board of the British Accounting and Finance Association (BAFA) as well as being chair of its Public Services Special Interest Group. He is associate editor of Financial Accountability & Management, and a member of the editorial boards of The International Journal of Public Policy, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Accounting and Business Research, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Accounting & Finance Governance Review and Public Money & Management. Since 2006, Noel has been a member of the Charity Statement of Recommended Practice Committee in the UK (under the auspices of the Charity Commission England and Wales). Recently he co-edited (with Donal McKillop) a themed issue of the British Accounting Review on ‘Public Services and Charities: Accounting, Accountability and Governance at a Time of Change’ (published 2018) and is currently in the process of editing a special issue of Abacus on the theme ‘Accounting for the Public Sector at a Time of Crisis’ (due to be published early 2019). He has been Academic Advisor to the Chartered Accountants Ireland Educational Trust since 2011.