Universities all over the world are experiencing a great push towards managerialism; this process is the result of the application of New Public Management principles and practices, but also the request of national law and regulation: modern universities are expected to manage institutional activities in the light of effectiveness, quality and efficiency. The debate on the appropriateness of management tools for universities is placed in this context and is described in the literature with reference to the typical components of management control systems: information and accounting system, organizational structure and control process. The article presents the results of an empirical research on management control systems in Italian universities; the analysis of collected data demonstrates a low dissemination and development of management control tools; in particular it shows that a high percentage of universities is presently implementing only two tools together, and these tools are predominantly generic, while the use of those considered more advanced (e.g. variance analysis and dashboards) is very low. These evidences suggest that the successful introduction of management control systems could not abstract from an adequate development of corporate culture.
Keywords: Management control systems, university management, corporate culture, Italian universities, management control tools