Quality Assurance: the new rock n roll?
No. But it remains a key issue in higher education. Fortunately there is a really handy text which can help the ambitious and enthusiastic wonk make sense of the key issues.
10 years since its original publication, Dangerous Medicine is as relevant now as it was then (OK, it wasn’t actually that relevant then but it does have some diverting passages). And, let’’s face it, you can’t go to any kind of wonk event these days without conversations drifting from the implications of Labour’s fees policy to the thorny matter of quality assurance. No-one wants to be the only one who doesn’t know the full implications of the outcome of the Joint Planning Group deliberations or to be unable to define board comparability of academic standards so it really does make sense to undertake a strategic investment in a book of real quality and longevity.
Dangerous Medicine: Problems with Assuring Quality and Standards in UK Higher Education
Available at a bargain price at just £2.39 on Amazon!
It really is well worth the read and there is something in there for everyone. Honest. And it really is a giveaway price for the product of nearly 10 years hard graft on my part. Go on. You know it makes sense.
This book, originally published in 2005, explores the origins of the quality assurance discourse in 20th Century higher education and argues that quality and standards are widely misunderstood concepts. This is manifested in the apparent enthusiasm for the adoption of industrial models of quality which are quite alien to education. The political context and justification for quality assurance are considered along with problems with language. The absence of any evidential benefit of external quality frameworks is addressed and compared to the excessive cost of operating such systems. The programmatic imperative, that quality assurance systems must work, is shown to be corrosive of trust in universities. The debate about academic standards in the 1990s is discussed and the definitional difficulties in relation to standards are examined. It is argued that greater explicitness about standards, as urged by the 1997 Dearing report and exemplified by the NVQ model, causes significant problems. Standardisation, it is proposed, is all too often used inappropriately as a surrogate for standards. These problematic strands converge towards the end of the 20th Century with the development of the Dearing-inspired QAA framework. Detailed scrutiny of the QAA proposals for a code of practice and benchmark statements on standards shows that the QAA model, even after modification, offers only the appearance of quality. The costs of the QAA framework outweigh any alleged value in terms of quality enhancement. Several alternative approaches are suggested, including the adoption of a suite of long-established proxies as an alternative to the QAA standards architecture. The QAA framework overall it is argued here offers only the prospect of decline and of damaging that which it is intended to assure; it is indeed dangerous medicine.
So, it’s topical as ever and I’m not even reducing price in order to secure more sales. It’s as cheap as chips already.