22 SES 12 E, (E)quality & Rankings
This study relates to a research tradition that critically reflects issues of evaluation and quality in education where criteria and significance of the term quality are not taken for granted.
(Ozga, Dahler-Larsen, Segerholm, & Simola 2011; Harvey & Green 1993). Our study has it´s roots in Franke-Wikberg and Lundgren’s (1980) theory-directed approach for evaluation studies. Segerholm (2003) developed the theoretical frame for such research and emphasised the need for including the political and historical context of the study and the evaluation itself in order to understand the analytical results of conducted research.
Quality has for the last decades, globally and in Sweden, been the word of honour when discussing and evaluating higher education. In the wake of the Bologna process 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 (ENQA 2009; Thune 2010) and revised in may 2015 (ENQA 2015). ENQA coordinates requirements about quality assurance policy and practice for higher education in the member nations. This way of organising quality assurance implies that the academy, its scholars and teachers no longer have the control they traditionally have had over the meaning and significance of quality in higher education. Furthermore, the history and idea of the university, borne of the 12th century Bologna Charter, containing the notion of academic freedom and self-governance has during the 20th centurybeen replaced by other models of the university (Wyatt 1990). New ways of trying to secure quality in higher education seems to be contradictory to the traditional academic freedom. Quality and what counts as valid knowledge is currently a matter also for administrators and evaluation authorities outside the academy. Quality in an administrative perspective is defined by the government while quality in the academy traditionally has been defined by collegial processes in each discipline. Overall quality in the latter sense has meant systematic and critical analysis and for higher education to create possibilities for students to practice and be assessed in that tradition. The discrepancies between these two perspectives on quality has frequently been noted and discussed (e.g. Rider & Waluszewski 2015, Scott 1997). We argue that the vice chancellors at the universities in Sweden harbours both these perspectives, as they are former researchers and professors in their discipline as well as governmental representatives and administrators in their role as leaders. Swedish vice chancellors are appointed by the government and have duties comparable to a CEO, which may force them to differentiate between their academic values and those to be represented. In line with Marshall, Mitchell and Wirt (1985), we also argue that the vice chancellors’ notions, their ‘assumptive worlds’, concerning these issues matter for their way of leading, governing, and trying to form policies and practices at their universities.
In this paper we are taking a closer look at the Swedish vice chancellors notions of, on the one hand what quality in higher education is and on the other hand on what characterises a university. Do the vice chancellors notions of quality in higher education correspond with or differ from their idea of what characterises a university? Is it possible to trace any signs from these notions in the vice chancellors views on important tasks for their university?
Bergström, G. & Boréus, K. (2005). Textens mening och makt. Lund: Studentlitteratur. ENQA (2009). Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (3rd ed.). Helsinki: ENQA. ENQA (2015). Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). Brussels, Belgium. Franke-Wikberg, S. & Lundgren, U. P. (1980). Att värdera utbildning. Del 1. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. Harvey, Lee, and Diana Green. 1993. “Defining Quality.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 18 (1): 9–34.Ozga, Jenny, Dahler-Larsen, Peter, Segerholm, Christina & Simola, Hannu (red.) (2011). Fabricating quality in education: data and governance in Europe. London: Routledge. Lindgren,J., Hult, A. & Olofsson, A. (2015). The idea of a University in times of quality assurance: the voices of Swedish vice chancellors. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), 7 to 11 September 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Olofsson, A. & Hult, A. (2015). What is quality in higher education- Vice chancellors’ notions in times of accountability in Sweden. Paper presented at he 43rd Annual Congress of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA) 4-6 March 2015 in Gothenburg Sweden. Rider, S., & Waluszewski, A Crowding out knowledge. In Peters, M., Paraskeva, J., and Besley, B.(ed) Global Financial Crisis and the Restructuring of Education. Global Studies in Education, Vol 31. Peter Land. New York. 2015 Segerholm, C. (2003). Researching evaluations in national (state) politics and administration: A critical approach. American Journal of Evaluation 24 (3): 353-372. Scott, P. (1997). The Changing Role of the University in the Production of New Knowledge; Tertiary Education and Management, Vol 3, No 1, 1997, 5-14. Thune, C. (2010). ENQA 2000-2005: From the launch of a professional network to the success in Bologna of a new association. In: ENQA: 10 years (2000-2010). A decade of European co-operation in quality assurance in higher education. Helsinki: European Association for Quality Assurance, pp. 9-15. Wyatt, J. (1990) Commitment to Higher Education. Seven West European Thinkers on the Essence of the University. Buckingham: Open University press.
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