PhD defense: Anne Isabelle Robbestad

PhD Defense

16 May 2011 19:47

(updated: 19 May 2016 19:48)

PhD defense: Anne Isabelle Robbestad

On Tuesday 24 May 2011 Anne Isabelle Robbestad will hold a trial lecture on a prescribed topic and defend her thesis for the PhD degree at NHH.

Prescribed topic for the trial lecture:
Studying accounting reforms in the public sector - theoretical and methodological approaches and challenges

Time of the trial lecture:
10:15 in Karl Borch's Auditorium, NHH

Title of the thesis:
Translating accrual accounting into health care: The case of the 2002 Norwegian health care reform

Time and place for the defense:
12:15 in Karl Borch's Auditorium, NHH

Members of the evaluation committee:
Professor Trond Bjørnenak, NHH, chairperson
Professor Sten Jönsson, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg
Professor Inger Johanne Pettersen, Trondheim Business School, Sør-Trøndelag University College

Supervising committee:
Professor Olov Olson, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg and professor II NHH, principal supervisor
Professor Katarina Kaarbøe, NHH
Professor Frode Mellemvik, Bodø Graduate School of Business, University of Nordland


The purpose of the thesis is to develop an understanding of the processes of introducing the private sector's accounting framework (accrual accounting) into a public sector setting. Actor Network Theory (ANT) is used as the theoretical framework in order to provide new sources of explanation to outcomes of New Public Management (NPM) inspired accounting reforms. Setting aside the traditional boundaries of macro/micro levels, ANT focuses on actors and how these try to control the outcomes of the accounting change processes by building heterogeneous associations made up of human and nonhuman elements (technical devices).

The thesis consists of four essays. The first essay introduces ANT and its fundamental concepts and includes a literature review. The other essays are part of a longitudinal study following the 2002 Norwegian health care reform process from the adoption of accrual accounting (essay 2) to its implementation at national level (essay 3) and local level (essay 4).

The main finding is the relationship between power and outcomes. In particular, the contextuality of power and the role played by nonhuman elements (such as accounting devices) in building and maintaining power relations provide new insight. The findings show how different actors have power at different times, and how these power relationships are affected by changes in the organizational structure in which they evolve. Another finding highlights the constitutive role of accounting by drawing attention to the importance of nonhuman elements in power relations. The longitudinal study enables to visualize especially how the accounting role varies during the successive change processes. In the adoption process, accounting is kept outside the political debates, while in the implementation process accounting performs both through the norm system as well as through the type of information it conveys. Accrual accounting becomes a focus point around which new organizational knowledge emerges, transforming itself and the organizational actors involved in its implementation.

The contribution of the thesis is also methodological. The use of ANT places the focus on a lost tradition of writing accounting stories while helping to visualize the creation of accounting practices and the constitution of new accounting knowledge.

The trial lecture and thesis defense will be open to the public. Copies of the thesis will be available from: