• Can procurement deliver strategic value? An exploratory study within the UK higher education sector

      Ward, Anthony J.; Yu, Ai Chuin (University of Chester, 2017-10)
      Since the turn of the 21st century, the UK higher education (HE) sector has been facing increased political and fiscal pressures brought about by economic uncertainty, austerity and enhanced student expectations. By giving rise to a hypercompetitive environment, it is posited that today’s HE institutions seek to fulfil their societal responsibilities by achieving teaching excellence and ensuring long-term and financial sustainability. This paper postulates that the sector’s quest is attainable by realising value of strategic relevance (SV) and that it is axiomatic for the role of procurement to deliver it. To determine whether procurement can achieve this, this study examines its role and the concept, relevance and influencing forces of SV. This research comprises a cross-sectional exploratory study with procurement influencers, leaders, practitioners and senior stakeholders representing 14 organisations within UK HE. The research methodology is based on a subjective ontology that follows an interpretivist epistemology allied to pragmatism. The conceptual nature of the research problem is examined through a qualitative research design. Review of literature facilitates appreciation of the enigma of the research problem whilst empirical findings gathered through a series of 23 semi-structured interviews, emphasise the symbiotic relationship between the role of procurement and its stakeholders. Conclusions reveal that the ability of procurement to deliver SV within UK HE is significantly influenced by stakeholders’ perceptions of its role. Moreover, it is contingent on institutions’ ascription of SV and overcoming internal challenges that are affected by the dynamic juxtapositioning of macro-environmental forces outside the influence of individual institutions. In exploring a number of attributes, this study makes recommendations as to how the role of procurement within UK HE may be enhanced to deliver SV. It is envisaged that this study may supplement existing research or contribute towards future discussions on the role of procurement within the UK HE sector.