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The Quality Movement discourse in the higher education sector - A general review

Author - Aidan Kenny


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1. Abstract

This paper – the first of a series of three – describes some of the macro milestones in the evolution of the Quality Movement in the industrial environment. The emphasis then shifts to reviewing the discourse relating to quality in the higher education sector in the UK. Attention is given to Quality Assessment, Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement models. The interface or tension lines between quality as a controlling mechanism or as a tool for development are outlined. Predominant concerns and issues as expressed by academics are clustered into macro questions, the answers to which will require further longitudinal research.

Purpose of the study
The broad purpose of the study is to present the notion of quality as a tool in the higher education sector to the undergraduate (see note 1) or postgraduate student, researchers, practitioners or those new to this concept. To facilitate this I include an accessible general review of relevant literature from the field. The questions raised could be of use for further detailed research by postgraduate students and researchers. Ideally these questions could contribute to the social dynamic of face to face discourse between academics, other parties in the staff rooms, classrooms, policy rooms and so forth.

Method
This paper offers a general review of research and literature from the fields of business, management, education and the social sciences that relate to quality. An interpretive research approach is utilised, descriptions are provided, and meaning and assumptions are constructed. I perceive this method as a subjective social engagement with the ‘footprints’ (see note 2) evident in printed and electronic media.

Originality
The paper endeavours to describe a historical macro economic context of the evolution of quality as a movement and then detail micro academic discourse relating to quality in higher education sector.

Keywords: Quality movement, Quality Assessment, Quality Assurance, Quality Enhancement, Higher Education (UK)


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