23 SES 03 B, Policies and Practices of Quality Evaluation
In Europe and beyond, there are concurrent political strives towards reforming and improving evaluation and assessment in and of the welfare state and such activities constitute important parts of contemporary government toolboxes (c.f. Dahler-Larsen, 2011). Sweden is no exception. Looking at higher education, several reforms have been implemented from 1993 and onwards which have produced certain governing tensions, reflecting moves of simultaneous deregulation and decentralization, of self-governing and re-regulation, manifested in for instance problems of balancing control/accountability and support (Segerholm et. al., 2014).
In this paper, we want to explore if and in that case how the political policy processes preceding quality assurance reforms (‘governing evaluation’) is reflected in the actual system of quality evaluations that are put into use as a result of these processes (‘governing by evaluation’), by focusing on the political moves and intentions underlying two recent quality assurance reforms in Swedish Higher Education. The aim of the paper is to describe and analyse the processes and content of two recent quality evaluation reforms and to discuss how shifts and continuities can be understood.
The first recent reform is from 2010 and embraced a result oriented approach mainly directed to assessing student outcomes. It was launched by the then non-socialist coalition government (Government bill 2009/10:139; SOU 2007:81) and highly debated as the Ministry decided to go with a system that the Swedish HE sector had not endorsed prior its implementation. In addition, the system did sufficiently comply with the criteria for membership in the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and despite being one of the founding members, Sweden no longer qualified for full membership (HSV, 2012). The second reform is planned to be implemented by the current Social Democratic-Green Party coalition in 2016. The new system of evaluation will diverge from the result oriented approach and instead it will aim at assessing different quality assurance systems operating in Swedish HE. So far, the policy deliberations have emphasized the need for cooperation and authorization from the HE sector as well as the need to fulfil the ENQA requirements (UKÄ, 2014; Ministry of Education, 2014).
This paper is a part of an ongoing project studying policy and practice of quality evaluation in Swedish Higher Education (Vetenskapsrådet, Dnr 721-2012-5424) and analyses how recent reforms can be understood as ways of governing HE - conceptualizing governing as activities composed of “assemblages” of places, people, policies, practices and power (Clarke 2014, p. 21). The study reported in this paper is located within the the overall framework of the project, which seek to understand the evaluation-governing problematic in terms of relations between a) contexts, intentions and aims of the reform; b) how it is carried out/the process; and c) outcomes (Segerholm et. al., 2012).
This paper departs from an approach in policy analysis asking What’s the Problem represented to be? (Bacchi, 2009), emphasizing the constructed nature of policy problems and the power relations at play when some issues and actors are incorporated into policy processes while others are left out, thereby framing and legitimizing certain solutions while silencing/marginalizing others. We link this approach to previous research on education policy emphasizing the importance of networks of actors and policy brokers, who carry policy agendas and new meanings in different policy sites (Grek et. al., 2009). Our theoretical approach further highlights the role of emotions in policy processes, for example in the way emotions are strategically and politically used in order to frame policies, or how feelings are aroused among different actors by policies and policy processes and the implications those emotions entail (Grek, Lindgren & Clarke, 2014).
Dahler-Larsen, P. (2011). Evaluation Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bacchi, C. (2009). Analysing Policy. What’s The Problem Represented to be? Frenchs forests: Pearson. Bergström, G. & Boréus, K. (2005). Textens mening och makt. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Clarke, J. (2014). Inspection: Governing at a distance. In S. Grek & J. Lindgren (Eds) Governing By Inspection. London: Routledge. Government bill 2009/10:139. Fokus på kunskap-kvalitet i den högre utbildningen. Stockholm: Utbildningsdepartementet. Grek, S., Lawn, M., Lingard, B., Ozga, J., Rinne, R., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (2009). National policy brokering and the construction of the European Education Space in England, Sweden, Finland and Scotland. Comparative Education 45(1), 5-21. Grek, S., Clarke, J. & Lindgren, J. (2014) Inspection and Emotion: The Role of Affective Governing, in, S. Grek & J. Lindgren (Eds), Governing by Inspection. London: Routledge. HSV (2012). ENQA:s granskning av Högskoleverket klar. Artikel 12-09-25. http://www.hsv.se/publikationerarkiv/artiklar/2012/enqasgranskningavhogskoleverketklar.5.485f1ec213870b672a680004319.html Downloaded Jan 22, 2015. Ministry of Education (2014). Harriet Wallberg Henriksson utreder systemet för kvalitetsäkring av högre utbildning. Pressmeddelande, 8 april 2014. http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/18276/a/238291 Downloaded 22 Jan, 2015. Segerholm, C., Hult, A, Lindgren, J., Olofsson, A., & Rönnberg, L. (2012). Utvärdering som styrning av högre utbildning i Sverige. Application to the Swedish Research Council. Segerholm, C., Rönnberg, L., Lindgren, J., Hult, A., & Olofsson, A. (2014). Changing Frameworks, Changing Expectations? The Case of Swedish Higher Education. Paper presented at the European Conference of Educational Research, in Porto, Portugal, September 2-5, 2014. SOU 2007:81. Resurser för kvalitet. Stockholm: Fritzes. UKÄ (2014). Förslag till nytt kvalitetssäkringssystem.. Presentation 2014-10-28. http://www.uka.se/download/18.6cd9c6e9149126b701528a3d/1414662216085/presentation-preliminart-forslag-nytt-utvsystem-28okt.pdf Downloaded Jan 22, 2015.
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