Favoring Standards-Based over Self-Review External Review Processes in University Quality Assurance Schemes

By Fernando F. Padró.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Quality assurance schemes for higher education institutions throughout the world are under
pressure to become more standards-based because of increasing mistrust of institutional self-review
process which is accompanying calls for accountability to consider more than the so-called “input”
criteria based on mission, resources, resource allocation, and fiscal responsibility. The demand for
basing quality assurance on results, particularly student learning, brings to the fore how results are
deemed successful. Standards are being put forward because these bring with them notions of documenting
more than a de minimis meeting of expectations. Instead, standards provide a clear baseline
to describe institutional quality through a prescribed set of measures determined by appropriate external
bodies. Prescription; however, brings its own set of challenges ranging from limiting academic
freedom and institutional autonomy to creating an orthodoxy of approach that defines creativity and
innovation at the university level, student learning, and appropriateness of research. Basing quality
performance on standards also has another potential challenge, encouraging a surface rather than a
deep learning approach to learning as discussed in Entwistle and Smith’s (2002) work on the subject. This paper
presents a discussion of the trend and rationale used in the call to use prescriptive standards as the
basis for external quality assurance reviews to determine university performance excellence. The
dialogue is framed within the perspective of whether or not the use of standards begins to impose an
external quality control scheme rather than enhancing a quality assurance process wherein universities
and faculty representing different disciplines are still able to exert autonomy and keep the necessary
flexibility to pursue creative endeavors that are the basis for innovation, the latter being one of the
raison d’ etre used to justify the imposition of external standards.

Keywords: Accreditation, Audit, Standards, Quality Assurance, Quality Control

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 2, Issue 6, pp.97-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.133MB).

Dr. Fernando F. Padró

Associate Professor, Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, School of Education, Cambridge College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Fernando Padró specializes in quality assurance, higher education systems, and faculty governance. His research interests include institutional quality assurance at universities, the role of accreditation, and organizational psychology of universities. He is a former Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner and was a Project AQIP reviewer for The Higher Learning Commission. He is currently the Secretary for the American Society for Quality’s Education Division and also serves as Chair of its Higher Education Advisory Council.

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