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    Re-Visioning Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

    O'Reilly, Aine (2014) Re-Visioning Quality Assurance in Higher Education. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    A central organising theme of this study is that the regulatory landscape of HE is transforming in ways that are reconstituting Higher Education [HE]. The purpose of this study is to contribute to understandings of the dynamic interaction between regulation and HE. This study focused on Quality Assurance [QA] as a key policy concern and regulatory mechanism of HE at national, European and global levels (L. Harvey, 2005). Drawing on poststructuralist and critical theories I located QA as a mechanism of governing HE and neoliberalism as a key rationality of governing HE. Following Brenner & Theodore (2002), I distinguished between neoliberalism as an abstract idea of the extension of market based values into political, social and personal life and neoliberalisation as the context-dependent process by which neoliberalism takes hold. My data was derived from two key European QA texts: European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ENQA, 2009) and European Association of Psychotherapy Training Accreditation Committee (EAP, 2012a). Using Critical Discourse Analysis as overall methodological framework, these texts were analysed in terms of their institutional, intertextual, discursive and textual contexts through two dialectically related categories: QA as a mechanism of transformation and HE as emerging form – the ‘imaginary’ of the QA project. I examined emerging means by which QA operates, locations in which it occurs, rationalities that underpin it and consequences of its application. My findings identified regulatory transformations involving emerging mechanisms of steerage of HE, such as ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ regulation working together. They identified emerging conceptualisations of quality in HE as an objective, measurable entity and an accountability task, and an emerging ideal of HE that dismantles boundaries between HE and the socio-economic sphere. They identified neoliberalism as one rationality underpinning these transformations and also alternative rationalities, strategies and technologies that affect the trajectory of QA and the formation of HE. Alternatives included challenges to neoliberal ideals, alternative knowledges about QA and HE, and alternative practices of QA. My findings identified pathways of neoliberalisation in HE as neither uniform nor consistent and trajectories of QA and HE as contingent on historic conditions and activities of policy actors. My contribution to the study of HE is to provide new understandings of regulatory landscapes of HE, of how neoliberalism has taken shape in HE spaces utilising regulatory mechanisms and how policy actors insert different alternative meanings in order to contest neoliberal trajectories of HE.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Quality Assurance; Higher Education;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Education
    Item ID: 5000
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2014 09:33
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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