Critical reflection follow-up post 4

Let me frame this matter more concretely. The literature on quality assurance in HE describe a number of areas that are amenable to quality assessment for the purposes of quality assurance and accountability. Ellis (1993) lists 20 areas in his attempt to regulate HE in accordance with the British Standards Institute BS5750 and the International Standards Organisation ISO9000 recommendations. The nature of quality is investigated by Harvey and Newton (2007), building on Harvey’s (2006) earlier typology of notions of quality. These authors, and many more, recognise the importance of teacher ability, yet “[w]hen implemented in the higher education contexts the industry focused quality measures present significant limitations” (Mizikaci, 2006, p. 38), i.e. a disregard of process variables because, as Tam points out, “process variables such as teaching and curriculum effectiveness are very difficult to measure” (Tam, 2001, p. 51). Tam adds, unfortunately without any supporting citations, that, “Educationists generally find audit distasteful, shallow, undemanding, since either the evidence of conformance to processes and procedures is there or it is not” (Tam, 2001, p. 50).

There seems to be a discrepancy between teaching beliefs and the ability of quality assessment instruments to measure those beliefs. However, in my reading, one aspect of this discrepancy is missing, and this aspect, I suspect, is crucial to a critical exposition of teacher inadequacy. Using Derrida’s deconstructionist technique of pairing opposites to uncover assumptions, we may question the use of the term ‘quality’. What is its opposite, it being a continuum? Yet quality is collocated with ‘assurance’ and ‘accountability’, giving the term a clear nuance of ‘good quality’, not a neutral association. From this understanding, a number of questions and assertions can be derived: If quality assurance is a ‘reality’ of 21st century life, whose vision and version of life are teachers subjected and subjugated to? Who controls quality, and what are the mechanisms by which they maintain control? I (tentatively) assert, following Tam, that as assessment is a regularly occurring event, the imposition of an external (to an individual) concept of quality may be a mechanism that promotes insecurity and feelings of inadequacy.

Space forbids me elaborating on a further implication of teacher inadequacy in HE: the possibility that in the collegiate and developmental academic cultures (Bergquist & Pawlak, 2008), the attempt to justify to oneself one’s own practices by accepting external values of quality may increase the sense of inadequacy which are countered with more and more unproductive navel-gazing meetings, internally driven metrics that appease yet are ineffective (e.g. more faculty development sessions on non-teaching issues, etc.), and more self-impositions of service hours, all of which do nothing for the espoused promotion of quality teaching. This has been observed in Japan (Mulvey, 2015).


Bergquist, W. H., & Pawlak, K. (2008). Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ellis, R. (1993). Quality Assurance for University Teaching. Quality assurance for university teaching. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Harvey, L. (2006). Understanding quality. In L. Purser (Ed.), Introducing Bologna objectives and tools: UA Bologna Handbook: Making Bologna work. Berlin: Brussels European University Association and Berlin, Raabe.

Harvey, L. E. E., & Newton, J. (2007). Transforming Quality Evaluation: Moving On. In D. F. Westerheijden, B. Stensaker, & M. J. Rosa (Eds.), Quality assurance in higher education: Trends in regulation, translation and transformation. Quality assurance in higher education (pp. 225–245). Dordrecht: Springer.

Mizikaci, F. (2006). A systems approach to program evaluation model for quality in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 14(1), 37–53.

Mulvey, B. (2015). Numbers Game: How Accreditation, Kaken-Hi and the “SUPER GLOBAL” Program are Changing Japan’s Universities.

Tam, M. (2001). Measuring Quality and Performance in Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education, 7(1), 47–54.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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