Higher Education

, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 361–378 | Cite as

How do quality assurance systems accommodate the differences between academic and applied higher education?

  • Michael L. Skolnik


Although the literature on institutional diversity suggests that quality assurance practices could affect institutional diversity, there has been little empirical research on this relationship. This article seeks to shed some light on the possible connection between quality assurance practices and institutional diversity by examining the arrangements for quality assurance in higher education systems that include two distinct sectors, one of which having a more academic orientation and the other a more applied orientation. The article explores the ways in which quality assurance structures and standards in selected jurisdictions provide for recognition of the differences in orientation and mission between academic and applied sectors of higher education systems. The research identified some features of quality assurance systems that recognize the characteristics of applied higher education, such as having different statements of expected learning outcomes for applied and academic programs or requiring different qualifications for faculty who teach in applied programs. It is hoped that the results might be of interest to policy makers and quality assurance practitioners who are concerned about the possible impact of quality assurance on institutional diversity.


Diversity Quality assurance Professional baccalaureate Applied baccalaureate Non-university sector 



Much of the data on quality assurance practices and standards presented in this paper were collected by the author for a report (Skolnik 2013a) that he produced as a consultant to the association of applied sector institutions in Ontario, Colleges Ontario. The purpose of the earlier study was to describe for Colleges Ontario the quality assurance practices for baccalaureate degrees of applied sector institutions in other jurisdictions, whereas the present article attempts to analyze that data in the context of the literature on institutional diversity. Some of the data from the earlier study have been updated for this article. The author did not receive any funding specifically for the preparation of this article. It may also be worth noting that some of the author’s previous publications have been supportive of the idea of community colleges in Canada and the USA awarding baccalaureate degrees, and critical of some of the conventional practices of quality assurance agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor Emeritus and formerly William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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