What Has Happened to Quality?
In this chapter, the authors analyze the notion of quality in the quality assurance systems and it discusses how the quality assurance systems have affected universities and students alike. Over the last 20 years, universities around the globe have been subject to comprehensive quality assurance systems and procedures. These quality assurance systems have become a very contested territory. The proponents of the quality agenda argue that the quality assurance systems set a more or less common framework for quality assurance, and that they enable improvement of quality, by supporting mutual trust within and across universities and borders and by providing valuable information on quality for the media and stakeholders. It is also argued that universities act in a changed and increasingly knowledge-based world where higher education plays a crucial role in socioeconomic and cultural development. According to some, these changes call for new regulatory tools such as the quality assurance systems to ensure high standards for research and the relevance of students’ qualifications. On the other side, the quality assurance systems have also received strong criticism. The quality assurance agenda has been fueled by the fact that benchmarking and the production of comparable data globally have become crucial governing tools. And accompanied by other (neoliberal) regulatory tools, the quality assurance systems are accused of having changed academia, and some would even argue that they have threatened the raison d’être of academia by turning universities into manufacturing companies with counterproductive quality standards.
KeywordsQuality assurance Higher education Neoliberal regulation
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