Advertisement

Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 179–195 | Cite as

University administrators’ conceptions of quality and approaches to quality assurance

  • Lori Goff
Article

Abstract

As the quality of university education garners increasingly more interest in both the public and in the literature, and as quality assurance (QA) processes are developed and implemented within universities around the world, it is important to carefully consider what is meant by the term quality. This study attempts to add to the literature empirical data from interviews conducted with senior administrators within Canada’s province of Ontario. A quality assurance framework was developed by the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents in response to international trends in QA and implemented by all 21 Ontario universities in 2011. This phenomenographic study explored the conceptions of quality held by senior university administrators and their strategies for implementing QA processes. Results revealed a range of QA approaches that are employed within Ontario’s universities. Rather than the two categories of retrospective QA and prospective QA that Biggs (High Educ 41:221–238, 2001) postulated, results indicate a more complex spectrum that involves three main approaches to QA: an approach aimed at defending quality, an approach aimed at demonstrating quality, and an approach aimed at enhancing quality. These approaches are considered in relation to Biggs’s (High Educ 41:221–238, 2001) ideas about quality enhancement and a revision to his model is proposed.

Keywords

Quality Quality assurance QA Conceptions Approaches Phenomenography 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was partially funded by an Educational Developers Caucus Grant. Special thanks also to L.Volante, N.Simmons, E.Kustra, J.Engemann, J.Mighty for their support and suggested revisions to early drafts of this work.

References

  1. Altbach, P. G. (2010). The realities of mass higher education in a globalized world. In D. B. Johnstone (Ed.), Higher education in a global society (pp. 25–41). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  2. Ashworth, P., & Lucas, U. (2000). Achieving empathy and engagement: A practical approach to the design, conduct and reporting of phenomenographic research. Studies in higher Education, 25(3), 295–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berryhill, J., Linney, J. A., & Fromewick, J. (2009). The effects of education accountability on teachers: Are policies too-stress provoking for their own good? International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 4(5). Retrieved from http://journals.sfu.ca/ijepl/index.php/ijepl/article/view/99.
  4. Biggs, J. B. (2001). The reflective institution: Assuring and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. Higher Education, 41, 221–238. doi: 10.1023/A:1004181331049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blackmur, D. (2010). Does the emperor have the right (or any) clothes? The public regulation of higher education qualities over the last two decades. Quality in Higher Education, 16(1), 67–69. doi: 10.1080/13538321003679549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Canadian Council on Learning. (2009). Up to par: The challenge of demonstrating quality in Canadian post-secondary education. In Challenges in Canadian Post-secondary Education. Ottawa, ON: Author. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/4kch348.
  7. Collier-Reed, B. I., Ingerman, Å., & Berglund, A. (2009). Reflections on trustworthiness in phenomenographic research: Recognising purpose, context and change in the process of research. Education as Change, 13(2), 339–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in teaching and learning: A guide for faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  9. Ewell, P. (2010). Twenty years of quality assurance in higher education: What’s happened and what’s different? Quality in Higher Education, 16(2), 173–175. doi: 10.1080/13538322.2010.485728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gibbs, G. (2013). Types of student engagement. Presentation made to Higher Education Academy Students as Partners’ summit, Escrick, UK.Google Scholar
  11. Goff, L., & Siddiqui, A. (forthcoming). Interpreting quality from Ontario’s quality assurance framework. Canadian Journal of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  12. Harvey, L. (2006). Impact of quality assurance: Overview of a discussion between representatives of external quality assurance agencies. Quality in Higher Education, 12(3), 287–290. doi: 10.1080/13538320601051010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harvey, L., & Green, D. (1993). Defining quality. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 18(1), 9–34. doi: 10.1080/0260293930180102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harvey, L., & Knight, P. T. (1996). Transforming higher education. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Developing students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: HE Academy.Google Scholar
  16. Kleijnen, J., Dolmans, D., Willems, J., & Van Hout, J. (2013). Teachers’ conceptions of quality and organisational values in higher education: compliance or enhancement? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(2), 152–166. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2011.611590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Lechleiter, H. (2009). Quality assurance and internal institutional diversity. In A. Blättler et al. (Eds.), Creativity and diversity: Challenges for quality assurance beyond 2010 (pp. 57–62). Brussels: European University Association. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/4g82wqc.
  19. Marton, F. (1986). Phenomenography: A research approach to investigating the different understandings of reality. Journal of Thought, 21(3), 28–49.Google Scholar
  20. National Union of Students. (2012). A manifesto for partnership. London: Author. Retrieved from www.nusconnect.org.uk/resourcehandler/0a02e2e5-197e-4bd3-b7ed-e8ceff3dc0e4/.
  21. Newton, J. (2002). Views from below: Academics coping with quality. Quality in Higher Education, 8(1), 39–61. doi: 10.1080/13538320220127434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Newton, J. (2010). A tale of two “qualitys”: Reflections on the quality revolution in higher education. Quality in Higher Education, 16(1), 51–53. doi: 10.1080/13538321003679499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance. (2010). Quality assurance framework. Retrieved from http://www.cou.on.ca/Related-Sites/The-Ontario-Universities-Council-on-Quality-Assura/Policies/PDFs/Quality-Assurance-Framework-and-Guide-Nov–2010.aspx.
  24. Trigwell, K. (2000). A phenomenographic interview on phenomenography. In J. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.), phenomenography (pp. 62–82). Melbourne: RMIT.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIIETL-MILLS L520McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

Personalised recommendations