23 SES 05 B, Globalisation, Europeanisation and Higher Education Reforms
Europeanization in higher education has been going on for several years. In the wake of the Bologna process a number of initiatives, programmes and organizations have been launched. One of these, and from 1999 specifically directed at ensuring ‘more comparable, compatible and coherent systems of higher education in Europe’ is the European Higher Education Area, (EHEA n.d.a). One central purpose of the Bologna process, and hence the EHEA, is to ‘encourage European cooperation in quality assurance of higher education with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies.’ (EHEA n.d.b). For this reason the European ministers of education agreed to support the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the Higher Education Area in 2005, drafted by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, ENQA (Thune 2010).
Presently 38 quality assurance agencies in 23 nations are full members of ENQA, which means that they have to live up to requirements about quality assurance policy and practice set up by the organization. Since all evaluative activities, including quality assurance, are part of governing work (Ozga, Dahler-Larsen, Simola & Segerholm 2010), our argument is that ENQA membership can be significant in the European context of how certain governing policy and practice is learned, brokered and translated.
Quality assurance and quality work is increasingly viewed as a necessary activity in public as well as private sectors (Dahler-Larsen 2009), and ‘quality’ has become a semantic magnet. As part of the comprehensive web of evaluative activities that form part of NPM, quality assurance is also implemented and enacted (Ball, McGuire & Brown 2012) in higher education. Our overarching query therefore concerns in what ways quality assurance policy and practice influence higher education. This study is however limited to questions about the significance of ENQA membership and its relation to the governing of higher education. Here, Sweden is an interesting example in that it has been a full member of ENQA, but this status was questioned and changed to ‘under review’ in 2012, and in 2014 Sweden was no longer accepted. This state of affairs fuelled an intense debate about the shortcomings of the evaluation system in existence 2011-2014, and about the design of the new system not yet decided or fully developed. This debate has also touched upon governing issues, but these have seldom been fully explored or studied. Departing from the purpose and aim of ENQA and its requirements for membership, the aim of this study is to describe and analyse the significance of these requirements on the Swedish national quality assessment (evaluation) policy in higher education. Which ENQA requirements can be traced in the model before 2010, in the model 2010-2014 and in the coming model, and by that influence the governing of Swedish higher education?
Conceptually we draw on previous research on evaluation, quality assessment and inspection in relation to the governing of education (Grek & Lindgren 2014, Hult & Segerholm 2012, Dahler-Larsen 2013, Ozga et al. 2010, Segerholm 2001). This means that we find evaluative activities to be central in contemporary governing work, and that they influence both as policy and as particular (national) practices albeit in different ways. We recognise the different forms of governing work that takes place in processes of transnational/European policy learning, brokering and translation through regulative, inquisitive and medidative ways (Jacobsson 2010a, b). The importance of national and local contexts in these processes (Ozga & Jones 2006, Steiner-Khamsi 2004, Sassen 2007) is also noted. European education policy has to make national sense and be translated to fit the specific national context in order to influence already existing policy and practice.
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