23 SES 06 B, Policies and Practices of Evaluation of Quality in Education (Part 2)
Paper Session continued from 23 SES 05 B
Research topic and conceptual framework
Ever since the so-called Bologna declaration, efforts have been made to coordinate higher education in European countries in order to facilitate student, teacher and researcher mobility. Education is central to sustain and promote a competitive European market, it is argued (ENQA 2015). The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was invented for this purpose, and other organizations have been constructed to support this attempt to converge different European higher education systems, one of them being the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA),
Higher education is one of the policy areas within the European Union that is not regulated by laws and regulations. Instead the process of europeanisation has to rely on ‘soft’ governing (Lawn 2006) through means like the Open Method of Coordination. The Open Method of Coordination is based on:
‘-jointly identifying and defining objectives to be achieved (adopted by the Council);
-jointly established measuring instruments (statistics, indicators, guidelines);
benchmarking, i.e. comparison of EU countries' performance and the exchange of best practices (monitored by the Commission).’ (EUR-Lex not dated).
In that spirit it is claimed that higher education is crucial for Europe in order to be an ‘increasingly knowledge-based’ society which is paramount for social cohesion, socio-economic and cultural development, economic growth and global competiveness (ENQA 2015, p. 6). It is also said that to sustain and increase mobility, national higher education systems have to be trusted to deliver education of high quality. Quality assurance (QA) is the means to achieve this, it is argued (ibid.), and a number of reforms and quality assurance activities have been launched the last decades (Maassen & Stensaker, 2011).
Hence the purpose of this paper is to:
a) map dissemination channels for European quality assurance policy in higher education using Sweden as an example,
b) to describe central dissemination channels for QA policy within Sweden, and
c) to investigate connections between these channels.
Taken together this mapping exercise adds to our understanding of the complexity of European education policy dissemination and transfer.
This study is part of a larger research project called ‘Governing by evaluation in higher education in Sweden’. We direct attention to how evaluative activities, particularly national quality assurance systems, govern Swedish higher education policy and practice. This means that we are interested in activities and actors; the actual work connected to evaluative activities like quality assurance and policy-making, how it is carried out, by whom, and how it is learned and disseminated. In this paper policy dissemination is at the fore. We use ‘dissemination’ to denote an intentional process of negotiating and the spreading of policy to different (European) countries. Although we use ‘dissemination’ as a central concept, we find that the conception of policy transfer, borrowing and brokering as processes carried out by ‘policy elites’ is helpful (Lawn & Lingard, 2002). Policy elites refers to actors like ministers, high ranking civil servants, experts in different fields who meet in different organizations to discuss mutual policy issues, exchange experiences, and decide on common policies and actions. Our understanding of policy dissemination as akin to processes of policy transfer, borrowing and brokering leads us to view dissemination as social processes in which interpretation and translation is central as well as re-contextualisation to new contexts (Freeman, 2006; Lindensjö & Lundgren, 2000; Sassen, 2007). This latter conception will however not be particularly elaborated here, since we concentrate on mapping channels for policy, i.e. the routes that QA policy is disseminated through.
References ENQA (2015). ESG 2015. Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. http://www.enqa.eu/index.php/home/esg/, accessed March 11, 2016. EUR-Lex. (not dated). Open method of coordination. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/glossary/open_method_coordination.html, accessed 27 December 2016. Freeman, R. (2006). What is translation? Rethinking relationships between research, policy and practice. Unpublished paper. University of Edinburgh. Lawn, M. (2006). Soft governance and the learning spaces of Europe. Comparative European Politics 2006, 4: 272-288. Lawn, M. & Lingard, B. (2002). Constructing a European Policy Space in Educational Governance: the role of transnational policy actors. European Educational Research Journal 1 (2): 290-307. Lindensjö, B. & Lundgren, U.P. (2000). Utbildningsreformer och politisk styrning. Stockholm: HLS Förlag. Maassen, P. & Stensaker, B. (2011). The knowledge triangle, European higher education policy logics and policy implications. Higher Education 61 (6): 757-769. Sassen, S. (2007). A Sociology of Globalization. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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