LOLF from the vantage point of the university
The Framework Law on Finance Acts (Loi Organique sur les Lois de Finance - LOLF) was passed by the French Parliament in 2001 and came into force in January 2006. As budget legislation it refocuses the relationship between rulers and ruled by modifying the connection between the state budget and operation of public structures, especially universities. These effects are interpreted in the present contribution with the help of a neo-institutionalist reference framework. In the first part, we set out a panoramic view of sectoral and organizational changes in higher education prior to LOLF. Despite various legislations during the 80s and 90s, the vast majority of universities failed to gain greater autonomy and to strengthen themselves as institutions, each with its own university-wide policies and governance. It is only with the LMD (licence-master-doctorate) reform that these professional bureaucracies started to destabilize. The study conducted at a pilot university experimenting with LOLF shows that the memory of earlier waves of reform is a structuring factor in players’ understanding of LOLF, paving the way for a deeper transformation. In the second part, the effects of LOLF are analysed in terms of their impact on information systems and of the tools put in place by universities. These include local management tools and those, like the four-year contact, introduced by the previous reforms of the sector. Based on a survey at two different universities, we point to a reorganization of interactions between the different bodies responsible for higher education, a reorganization that also is reflected within the university, particularly in relation to its component parts. At the heart of this process we observe a refocusing on the four-year contract, but "lolf-icized", and an impact on internal management tools, albeit highly dependent on local initiatives and internal capabilities. Part three discusses the possible extension of these results by bringing into the analysis the context created by the 2007 Law on University Freedoms and Responsibilities (Libertés et responsabilités universitaires - LRU).
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