ERG SES G 12, Countries and Education
Quality has always been always a core academic value in higher education, but in the mid-1980s new quality assurance mechanisms were introduced in some Western European countries as a result of the emergence of strategic, ex post evaluation (Neave, 1988; Schwarz and Westerheijden, 2004). In Central and Eastern European countries, this development was not much delayed: it was influenced by broader political, economic, social and cultural trends of the transition to democracy in the 1990s (Zgaga, 2007).
The turning point in strengthening common European cooperation was the adoption of Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) (ENQA, 2005) as a part of Bologna Process, “a motor of quality assurance reforms across Europe” (Enders and Westerheijden, 2014, p. 174). Although Bologna is politically a very successful strategy, the implementation of its principles is rather problematic at national level (Neave and Maassen, 2007). While the Netherlands was among first countries which successfully adopted most of the Bologna measures (CHEPS, INCHER-Kassel and ECOTEC, 2010), Slovenia is still struggling with its contra-Bologna development, particularly in the field of quality assurance. The Dutch case is as such particulary adequate for addressing the question, if it can serve as a possible reference point for the further development of these processes in Slovenia.
Some point out that promoting comparability and compatibility of quality assurance systems is a prerequisite for the overall success of the Bologna Process and is as such crucial for increasing convergence of higher education systems (Sursock and Smith, 2010). Others argue that due to the heterogeneity of (and between) higher education systems, their history, culture and specific geopolitical position, it is hardly feasible that all EHEA countries will provide comparable quality (Neave and Maassen, 2007; CHEPS, INCHER-Kassel and ECOTEC, 2010). In this sense, the tension between convergence and diversity is one of those dichotomies, which we should not ignore when thinking about further development of these processes in EHEA countries. This also applies to various quality assurance instruments (or “transparency instruments”, see Hazelkorn, 2012), e.g. accreditation, evaluation, audit, funding mechanisms, rankings, etc., which often raise questions about their purposes due to their possible converging effects on institutional, national and supranational higher education development on the one hand, while causing vertical diversity of higher education systems on the other (Bleiklie, 2011).
By taking the simultaneous impact of global, national and local dynamics into consideration (Marginson and Rhoades, 2002), we can identify complex realities of the quality assurance development and “glonacal agency heuristic” (ibid.) is an adequate approach for this purpose. However, between national and global there is regional, European-level development of higher education, which confronts coercive, mimetic and normative pressures for convergence in Bologna Process (Dobbins, 2008; Enders and Westerheijden, 2014), in this study discussed as sources of institutional isomorphism (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; see also Dobbins, 2008).
The main research question is: Are quality assurance processes in Slovenia and the Netherlands converging or diverging?
and includes following sub-questions:
*How did quality assurance processes develop in selected countries in “pre-Bologna” (1980s-1999) and “Bologna phase” (1999 onwards)?
*What are the similarities and differences of the purposes of quality assurance instruments in both countries?
*Which trends we must not ignore in the future development of quality assurance systems?
The objectives are as followed:
*to compare the development of quality assurance practices and instruments in both countries from 1980s onwards
*to expose various understandings of this issue in policy documents, literature, comparative studies and empirical data
*to evaluate arguments in favour of convergence and diversity dichotomy
*to illustrate possible national responses to European and global influences on quality assurance processes
Bleiklie, I. (2011). Excellence, Quality and the Diversity of Higher Education Systems. In M. Rostan and M. Vaira (Eds.), Questioning Excellence in Higher Education: Policies, Experiences and Challenges in National and Comparative Perspective (pp. 21–35). Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers. CHEPS, INCHER-Kassel and ECOTEC (2010). The Bologna Process Independent Assessment: The first decade of working on the European Higher Education Area, Volume 2, Case studies and appendices. Enschede: Twente University/CHEPS. DiMaggio, P. and Powell, W. (1983). The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147-160. Dobbins, M. (2008). Comparing Higher Education Policies in Central and Eastern Europe: To converge or not to converge? Doctoral thesis. Konstanz: University of Konstanz. Enders, J. and Westerheijden, D. (2014). Quality assurance in the European policy arena. Policy and Society, 33, 167–176. [ENQA] (2005). Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. Helsinki: European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Hazelkorn, E., (2012). European “Transparency Instruments”: Driving the Modernisation of European Higher Education. In A. Curaj, P. Scott, L. Vlasceanu in L. Wilson (Eds.), European Higher Education at the Crossroads (pp. 339–360). Dordrecht: Springer. Kogan, M. (1996). Comparing Higher Education Systems. Higher Education, 32(4), 395–402. Marginson, S. and Rhoades, G. (2002). Beyond national states, markets, and systems of higher education: A glonacal agency heuristic. Higher Education, 43(3), 281–309. Neave, G. (1988). On the Cultivation of Quality, Efficiency and Enterprise: An Overview of Recent Trends in Higher Education in Western Europe, 1986-1988. European Journal of Education. 23(1/2), 7–23. Neave, G. and Maassen, P. (2007). The Bologna Process: an intergovernmental policy perspective. In P. Maassen in J. P. Olsen (Eds.), University Dynamics and European Integration (pp. 135–154). Dordrecht: Springer. Schwarz, S. and Westerheijden, D. F. (Eds.) (2004). Accreditation and Evaluation in the European Higher Education Area. Dordrecht: Springer. Sursock, A. and Smidt, H. (2010). Trends 2010: A decade of change in European Higher Education. EUA Report. Brussels: EUA. Välimaa, J. (2008). On Comparative Research in Higher Education. In A. Amaral et al. (ed.), From Governance to Identity (pp. 141–155). Dordrecht: Springer. Zgaga, P. (2007). Higher Education in Transition. Reconsiderations on Higher Education in Europe at the Turn of Millennium. Umeå: Umeå University.
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