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The introduction of legal audit within French universities: The impact on the managerial latitude of managers

Hamza El Kaddouri, Modar Ajeeb

Abstract: The adoption of the Law relative to the Liberties and Responsibilities of Universities (LRU) in 2007 has sought to “modernize” the governance system of French universities. Article 18 of this Law stipulated “the accounts of the university are subject to an annual audit by a legal auditor” (Law no. 2007–1199 of 10 August 2007). This paper explores management teams’ perceptions of the role of legal audit in the governance system of French universities and its impact on the managerial latitude of university managers. Based on twenty-five interviews carried out with members of the management teams in three universities, the results of this study are threefold. Firstly, legal audit plays a disciplinary role by reducing the information asymmetry and cognitive conflicts between university managers and the stakeholders involved in governance particularly the financial supervisory authorities and the accounting agency. Secondly, the audit report is used by university managers to reinforce the legitimacy and the objectivity of their decisions, in the face of internal and external political pressure coming mainly from the university council, faculties, and the supervisory authorities. Thirdly, legal audit plays a complementary role to the governance system in place, including the controls of the accounting agency, the Council, and the Rectorate. Therefore, the results of this research are part of an integrated governance approach (Wirtz, 2006) which is characterized by the complementarity between the disciplinary and cognitive dimensions (Williamson, 1991; Charreaux, 1997)
Keywords: legal audit / accounting / governance system / teams / council / supervisory / university / managerial

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