This study aims to understand whether the disclosure provided by the Integrated Performance Plans (IPPs) issued by Italian State Universities is substantive or for-mal. In particular, this research, using the interpretative lens of Middle Range The-ory (MRT) by Habermas, investigates the level of interrelationship that exists be-tween the different sections of the IPP (strategic planning, organizational perfor-mance, risk analysis, transparency and anti-corruption, and individual perfor-mance) and it verifies the degree of disclosure thoroughness contained in these dif-ferent sections. Analysing a sample composed by the last IPP published by 66 Ital-ian Universities and adopting a meaning-oriented content analysis, final results show that although the findings show a generally positive level of information, in the preparation of the Plans a prevalent attitude of formal compliance with the law seems to persist. As the meaning-oriented content analysis has shown, in most cases disclosure is used by Italian universities for essentially symbolic purposes. The analysis offers the chance for a twofold contribution to theory and practice. Firstly, it expands the theoretical debate offering newer insights on how infor-mation is disclosed and the factors influencing disclosure behaviours towards spe-cific accountability purposes. Secondly, it presents interesting practical and policy-making implications, suggesting them to pay effort in designing solutions to ease the substantive operationalization of holistic systems, not fully achieved yet.
Keywords: Universities, Integrated Performance Plans, Middle Range Theory, Meaning Oriented Content Analysis