The behavioural and organisational implications of an Activity-based costing implementation in a tertiary Institution: a case study

Author: Michael Fowler

Abstract: This is a case study on Maui Polytechnic, (fictitious name due to confidentiality required by the institution) a New Zealand tertiary institution that has recently implemented (or claimed to implement) an activity-based costing system (ABC). In particular, the research focussed on the behavioural and organisational factors relating to an ABC implementation in a service industry. The study sought to explain why the costing system was changed to ABC, analysing how it was implemented, determine what participants understood by ABC and examine how participants reacted to the ABC implementation.

Results of the study indicate that the implementation was affected by behavioural and organisational factors, consistent with the ABC literature in the manufacturing sector. Some evidence also exists that resistance to costing systems may occur because of a different ‘ethos’ to performance measurement in education as opposed to business. The system that was installed by Maui Polytechnic was not a full ABC system and did not measure activities or cost services, despite claims that an ABC had been implemented.