Year

2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

This thesis investigated and described the application of quality assurance in an Australian university. The research explored the following questions: How is quality assurance understood at University of Culture (UOC)? How is quality assurance developed at UOC? What are the criteria for quality assurance at UOC, and How is quality assessed and evaluated at UOC? The research focused on how quality assurance was managed in undergraduate education at the University of Culture in 2005. This study inquired into the experience of quality assurance in an Australian university through three levels: Government policy, university policy and faculty practices. The research used a qualitative research methodology comprising of interviews, literature and documentary review to develop a case study (Denzin, 1989; Yin, 2003; Jupp, 1996). This study found that the University of Culture had a planned approach to quality assurance and a comprehensive set of processes that were driven through the Quality Cycle of the University. While the University and faculty selected for the case study were recognized as having high quality outcomes, there were varying perceptions about quality assurance between administrators and academics. The study also found that: (1) Traditional collegial and administrative methods in higher education have been supplanted by managerial approaches to leadership in higher education, and this influences the traditional culture of university. (2) There are divergent and opposing views on quality in the university community. The administrators thought quality assurance was necessary and relevant to the university's mission while the academics saw it as a cumbersome process and lacking relevance to their roles. (3) There was a varying perception of the use of the 'Quality Cycle' across the University of Culture. Knowledge of and the use of the 'Quality Cycle' varied at the grassroots level of the University. (4) Performance indicators were used as the criteria of quality assurance to enable benchmarking and comparisons between the universities. However, evidence from this study suggests that these indicators are not considered in the teaching process and the design of learning experiences, and tend to be seen as a tool for management rather than as guides for good practice. (5) Academics saw quality systems as unnecessarily onerous and bureaucratic and had a preference of methods that favored self-assessment, self-management of quality and course reviews at a faculty level rather than external reviews. This study confirms a polarization of opinions on the value of quality assurance and its relevance in university teaching and learning. The research highlights the differential impressions of quality across the university community and the need for alternative strategies that build on the actual work practices of academics. The study proposes that more collaborative and inclusive ways of developing quality assurance are required if they are to change the practices of academics.

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