New institutionalism predicts a global convergence in how higher education is organized. This convergence might be expected to intensify in professional education given accreditation requirements of professional bodies. Engineering presents an opportunity to study how international mobility agreements facilitate the development and normative diffusion of global norms in accreditation. This paper investigates how changing logics of accreditation influence the academic organization of engineering schools in Canada. Using three case studies of Canadian universities, we show how regulative and normative institutional pressures influence decisions by engineering schools to take visible action to demonstrate their conformity to global norms, while still pursuing local missions. Our findings contribute to understanding the complex mediation processes between professions and universities, and they represent a critique to dominant rationalist perspectives on quality assurance mechanisms in higher education.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abbott, A. (1988). The system of professions: An essay on the division of expert labor. University of Chicago Press.
Abbott, A. (2002). The disciplines and the future. In S. G. Brint (Ed.), The future of the city of intellect: the changing American university (pp. 205–230).
Abbott, A. (2005). Linked ecologies: states and universities as environments for professions. Sociological Theory, 23(3), 245–274.
Barrow, M. (1999). Quality-management systems and dramaturgical compliance. Quality in Higher Education, 5(1), 27–36.
Brennan, R. W., & Hugo, R. J. (2010). The CDIO syllabus and outcomes-based assessment: a case study of a Canadian mechanical engineering program. Proceedings of the 6th International CDIO Conference, École Polytechnique, Montréal, 15–18.
Brennan, R. W., Hugo, R., & Rosehart, W. D. (2012). CDIO as an enabler for graduate attributes assessment: a Canadian case study. International Journal of Quality Assurance in Engineering and Technology Education (IJQAETE), 2(2), 45–54.
Briggs, C. L., Stark, J. S., & Rowland-Poplawski, J. (2003). How do we know a “continuous planning” academic program when we see one? The Journal of Higher Education, 74(4), 361–385.
Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. (2015). 2015 accreditation criteria and procedures. Retrieved from Engineers Canada website: https://engineerscanada.ca/sites/default/files/Accreditation_Criteria_Procedures_2015.pdf.
Case, J. M. (2016). The historical evolution of engineering degrees: competing stakeholders, contestation over ideas, and coherence across national borders. European Journal of Engineering Education, 1–13.
Cloutier, G., Hugo, R., & Sellens, R. (2010a). Mapping the relationship between the CDIO syllabus and the 2008 CEAB graduate attributes. Proceedings of the 6th International CDIO Conference, École Polytechnique, Montréal.
Cloutier, G. M., Sellens, R. W., Hugo, R. J., Camarero, R., & Fortin, C. (2010b). Outcomes assessment and curriculum improvement through the cyclical review of results—a model to satisfy CEAB-2009 accreditation requirements. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association.
Crawley, E. F. (2001). The CDIO Syllabus: a statement of goals for undergraduate engineering education. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Crawley, E. F., Malmqvist, J., Lucas, W. A., & Brodeur, D. R. (2011). The CDIO Syllabus v2. 0. An updated statement of goals for engineering education. Proceedings of 7th International CDIO Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dill, D. D. (1995). Through Deming’s eyes: a cross-national analysis of quality assurance policies in higher education. Quality in Higher Education, 1(2), 95–110.
DiMaggio, P., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: collective rationality and institutional isomorphism in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160.
Divall, C. (1994). Education for design and production: professional organization, employers, and the study of chemical engineering in British universities, 1922-1976. Baltimore: Technology and Culture.
Downey, G., & Lucena, J. C. (2007). Globalization, diversity, leadership, and problem definition in engineering education. 1st International Conference on Engineering Education Research, p 22–24.
Engineers Canada. (2018). AU Task Force report to Engineers Canada (p. 38) [Task Force Report]. Retrieved from Engineers Canada website: https://engineerscanada.ca/sites/default/files/accreditation/Report-of-the-AU-Task-Force-FINAL-EN.pdf.
Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. (2014). Core Curriculum Review Task Force—final report (p. 76). Retrieved from University of Toronto website: http://www.engineering.utoronto.ca/files/2015/02/07-TF-Core-Curriculum-Review-Final-Report.pdf.
Frank, B., Fostaty-Young, S., McCahan, S., Wolf, P., Ostafichuck, P., Watts, K. C., & Saleh, N. (2011). Engineering graduate attribute development (EGAD) project. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association. Retrieved from http://queens.scholarsportal.info/ojs/index.php/PCEEA/article/view/3566.
Frank, B., Strong, D., Sellens, R., & Clapham, L. (2013). Progress with the professional spine: a four-year engineering design and practice sequence. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 19(1) Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.7158/D12-016.2013.19.1.
Halliday, T. C. (1985). Knowledge mandates: collective influence by scientific, normative and syncretic professions. British Journal of Sociology, 421–447.
Hanrahan, H. (2008). The Washington Accord: history, development, status and trajectory. 7th ASEE Global Colloquium on Engineering Education, 19–23.
Hanrahan, H. (2009). Toward consensus global standards for quality assurance of engineering programmes. In Engineering education quality assurance (pp. 51–71). Springer.
Harvey, L. (2004). The power of accreditation: views of academics. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 26(2), 207–223.
Harvey, L., & Mason, S. (1995). The role of professional bodies in higher education quality monitoring. Birmingham: QHE, Centre for Research into Quality.
Harwood, J. (2006). Engineering education between science and practice: rethinking the historiography. History and Technology, 22(1), 53–79.
International Engineering Alliance. (2015). Best practices in accreditation of engineering education: an exemplar (p. 15). Retrieved from International Engineering Alliance website: http://www.ieagreements.org/assets/Uploads/Documents/Policy/Best-Prct-Full-Doc.pdf.
Kaupp, J. (2012). A comparison of institutional approaches to CEAB graduate attribute requirements. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association. Presented at the Winnipeg, MB. Winnipeg, MB.
Kaupp, J., & Frank, B. (2017). EGAD national snapshot survey: change, progress and improvement. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association. Presented at the Canadian Engineering Education Association Annual Conference, Halifax, NS. Retrieved from https://queens.scholarsportal.info/ojs-archive/index.php/PCEEA/article/view/6503.
Larson, M. S. (1977). The rise of professionalism: a sociological analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lawrence, T. B., & Suddaby, R. (2006). Institutions and Institutional Work. In S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T. B. Lawrence & W. R. Nord (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organization studies (pp. 215–254). London: Sage.
Lennon, M. C., & Frank, B. (2014). Learning outcomes assessments in a decentralised environment: the Canadian case. In H. Coates (Ed.), Higher education learning outcomes assessment: International perspectives (pp. 89–112). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Lucena, J., Downey, G., Jesiek, B., & Elber, S. (2008). Competencies beyond countries: the re-organization of engineering education in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(4), 433–447.
Malmqvist, J., Hugo, R., & Kjellberg, M. (2015). A survey of CDIO implementation globally—effects on educational quality. Proc. 11th International CDIO Conference, Chengdu University of Information Technology, Chengdu, Sichuan, PR China.
Meiksins, P., & Smith, C. (1993). Organizing engineering work: a comparative analysis. Work and Occupations, 20(2), 123–146.
Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340–363.
Millard, J. R. (1988). The master spirit of the age: Canadian engineers and the politics of professionalism (pp. 1887–1922). University of Toronto Press.
Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.
Patil, A., & Gray, P. (Eds.). (2009). Engineering education quality assurance: a global perspective. New York: Springer.
Pedersen, J. S., & Dobbin, F. (1997). The social invention of collective actors: on the rise of the organization. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(4), 431–443.
Pedersen, J. S., & Dobbin, F. (2006). In search of identity and legitimation: bridging organizational culture and neoinstitutionalism. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(7), 897–907.
Prados, J. W., Peterson, G. D., & Lattuca, L. R. (2005). Quality assurance of engineering education through accreditation: the impact of Engineering Criteria 2000 and its global influence. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 165–184.
Reynolds, T. S., & Seely, B. E. (1993). Striving for balance: a hundred years of the American Society for Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education, 82(3), 136–151.
Schofer, E., & Meyer, J. W. (2005). The worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 70(6), 898–920.
Schwarz, S., & Westerheijden, D. F. (Eds.). (2004). Accreditation and evaluation in the European Higher Education Area. Retrieved from http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9781402027963.
Scott, W. R. (2005). Institutional theory: contributing to a theoretical research program. Great Minds in Management: the Process of Theory Development, 37, 460–484.
Scott, W. R. (2008a). Approaching adulthood: the maturing of institutional theory. Theory and Society, 37(5), 427–442.
Scott, W. R. (2008b). Institutions and organizations: ideas and interests. SAGE.
Scott, W. R. (2008c). Lords of the dance: professionals as institutional agents. Organization Studies, 29(2), 219–238.
Seely, B. E. (1999). The other re-engineering of engineering education, 1900–1965. Journal of Engineering Education, 88(3), 285–294.
Stark, J. S., Briggs, C. L., & Rowland-Poplawski, J. (2002). Curriculum leadership roles of chairpersons in continuously planning departments. Research in Higher Education, 43(3), 329–356.
Stinchcombe, A. L. (1997). On the virtues of the old institutionalism. Annual Review of Sociology, 23(1), 1–18.
Suddaby, R., & Muzio, D. (2015). Theoretical perspectives on the professions. In B. Hinings (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of professional service firms (pp. 1–29). Oxford University Press.
University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. (2017). Manual of procedures for the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (p. 11). Retrieved from University of Toronto website: http://www.engineering.utoronto.ca/files/2017/12/UCC-Manual-appd-Dec-12-2017-FC.pdf.
Volkwein, J. F., Lattuca, L. R., Harper, B. J., & Domingo, R. J. (2007). Measuring the impact of professional accreditation on student experiences and learning outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 48(2), 251–282.
Yin, R. K. (2013). Case study research (5th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Klassen, M., Sá, C. Do global norms matter? The new logics of engineering accreditation in Canadian universities. High Educ 79, 159–174 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00403-6
- Sociology of professions