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A methodological framework to analyze stakeholder preferences and propose strategic pathways for a sustainable university

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Abstract

Building sustainable universities calls for participative management and collaboration among stakeholders. Combining analytic hierarchy and network processes (AHP/ANP) with statistical analysis, this research proposes a framework that can be used in higher education institutions for integrating stakeholder preferences into strategic decisions. The proposed framework is applied to a private university in Turkey as a case study through a survey of 30 participants, representing key internal stakeholder groups. The present research extends the literature by adding a statistical analysis component involving a diverse sample of stakeholders, while previous applications of AHP/ANP in higher education involve a single or a few decision makers. The survey demonstrates stakeholder priorities with respect to sustainability performance indicators and a set of investment projects as well as how they change under low, medium and high financial constraints. The study finds that, while stakeholders have varying opinions regarding sustainable development, generally their highest priority is teaching, followed closely by research. Further, although stakeholders assign a high priority to environmental initiatives when the concern is service and social responsibility, they do not consider such investments profitable. Lastly, it appears that “high visibility” projects gain priority as the level of financial constraint increases.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Chief and Associate Editors, two anonymous reviewers, the participants of the study and the president of Istanbul Kemerburgaz University for their valuable contributions.

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Correspondence to Fikret Korhan Turan.

Appendix

Appendix

Calculating AHP/ANP priorities and consistency ratio (CR)

AHP/ANP priorities and CR can also be calculated without software (Saaty 1995). For a random participant, Table 3 provides the initial pairwise comparisons of the four main performance criteria. The numbers shown represent how much more important the row criterion is compared to the column criterion with respect to the sustainability goal. For instance, as R&D is two times more important than Teaching, Teaching must be only 1/2 as important as R&D. The priorities for these criteria are calculated by dividing each number by its column sum (i.e., normalizing columns) and taking the row averages, also presented in Table 3.

Table 3 Deriving priorities for the main performance criteria

In AHP/ANP, model entities are always compared with respect to the parent entity. Therefore, for a multilevel hierarchical model, the priority of an alternative is found by summing up the assigned priorities throughout the hierarchy. In the case study, for example, to calculate the priority of HR & Intl (P4) with respect to Teaching, first the priority of the Teaching criterion with respect to the sustainability goal is multiplied with the priorities of the Teaching subcriteria with respect to the Teaching criterion, then summing up all these values after multiplying each of them by the priority of HR & Intl (P4) with respect to the corresponding Teaching subcriterion.

The procedure to find CR follows a similar process, including four steps. First, each column of Table 3 is multiplied by the priority of the related criterion. As an example, the first column of Table 3 is multiplied by 0.354. Then, the row sums are taken as provided in Table 4. In the second step, these row sums are divided by the priority of the related criterion, and the average of the resulting ratios is taken as shown in Table 4.

Table 4 First and second steps of the CR calculation

The third step involves the calculation of the consistency index (CI) using the following formula, where n is the number of rows in the table investigated:

$${\text{CI}} = \frac{{{\text{Average}}\; {\text{ratio}}\; {\text{from}}\; {\text{step}}\; 2 - n}}{n - 1} = \frac{4.139 - 4}{4 - 1} = 0.046$$
(1)

Finally, the CR is calculated by dividing the CI by the appropriate value in Table 5. Therefore, the CR for the pairwise comparisons shown in Table 3 is calculated as 0.046/0.90 = 0.051.

Table 5 Random indices for consistency (Saaty 1995)

Deriving priorities for the main performance criteria under financial constraint

Table 6 shows the aggregate priorities for the main performance criteria when there is financial constraint. These priorities were derived from the responses of participants after running the model under three different scenarios: low (the model does not have a Finance criterion), medium (the model has a Finance criterion) and high (there is a dependency from the Finance criterion to the other three main performance criteria) financial constraints.

Table 6 Aggregate priorities for main performance criteria under financial constraint

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Turan, F.K., Cetinkaya, S. & Ustun, C. A methodological framework to analyze stakeholder preferences and propose strategic pathways for a sustainable university. High Educ 72, 743–760 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9973-8

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