Artificial flavour

June 9, 2011

Roger Brown offers a dystopian vision of the future of higher education in the light of forthcoming policy changes ("Quality street blues", 2 June). Many in the sector will share his pessimism.

The biggest problem facing the management of quality, according to much research in the field over the past 20 years, is the perceived artificiality of quality assurance processes. For many academics, they are seen as burdensome extras, to be responded to only through ritualised compliance.

Quality assurance fails to be a part of the everyday activity of academics because they perceive no link between the performance embodied in its processes and the quality of their teaching and research.

For quality to become part of the lived experience of all higher education stakeholders, it needs to become a fundamental part of what is done in the sector. A genuine culture of quality is necessary. However, there is always a tension between quality as ritual and quality as it is owned by academics. It should be more than "feeding the beast".

However, there is much to be positive about in the development of quality processes over the past two decades. While external processes could be better aligned to everyday academic activity and internal processes are still developing, quality assurance has delivered clear documentation and greater transparency.

Attempts to push a consumerist approach on to the sector have been met with indifference from many, and while there are increasing social demands being placed on the academy, there remains a strong commitment to autonomy, independence and academic freedom, which quality assurance procedures sometimes rub up against.

James Williams, Associate editor, Quality in Higher Education, Birmingham City University

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy