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From both sides of the table: the role of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Jenkins, Elaine Harries 2015. From both sides of the table: the role of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. EdD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

The thesis analyses the relationship between the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and universities in England. It considers why the QAA still appears to be misunderstood and controversial, eighteen years after its establishment. Differing representations of the QAA necessitates it using significant time and resources to explain its status and its relationship with the higher education (HE) sector. These representations also inhibit the maturation and refinement of the quality assurance system in England. The professional issue explored is: why is the QAA viewed and portrayed differently depending on who is making the assessment and in what context? The aims were to provide an improved understanding of how different types of universities and their staff perceive, construct and appropriate the QAA and to provide a reference point for quality professionals to assess their own university’s institutional practice. The theoretical framing of this issue draws upon Bernstein’s (1996) concepts of the pedagogic device and contextualisation. Empirically, thirty-two semi-structured interviews were undertaken between July 2009 and June 2011, supplemented by extensive documentary analysis. The experiences of staff at different levels within three types of English university and from the QAA itself were explored in this way. In answering the four research questions, the findings suggest that the universities consider it legitimate for the QAA to undertake certain roles, such as safeguarding academic standards, while other roles should be the sole responsibility of the universities. Reasons why the QAA is viewed differently include: the power related to perceived institutional position in the HE hierarchy of prestige, the public nature of the QAA’s reports, contestation within the Pedagogic Recontextualising Field, and the multi-dimensional nature of the QAA’s relationships. The research also suggests that the recontextualising process that the QAA undertakes is complex. Through a process of engagement, facilitation and negotiation with the different elements of the higher education sector, the QAA attempts to balance the interests of a number of different stakeholders within the Official Recontextualising Field and the Pedagogic Recontextualising Field. The complexity is added to by the frequent contestation within and between these groups. The findings also indicate that the different types of university, identified within the research have different capacities to recontextualise the QAA’s messages at institutional level into the local setting. The extent to which the messages are mediated appears to be predicated on a number of factors. There is also a degree of recontextualisation undertaken at subject level. Similarly, the extent to which the QAA has influence over what universities do also seems to be linked to the type of university. Although there appears to be some sector-wide influence in relation to internal university quality assurance structures and the specialist quality assurance language used.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 04:25
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/85056

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