Abstracts: Balancing the needs and expectations of society with the autonomy of institutions


Supra-national accreditation, trust and institutional autonomy

Authors: Alberto Amaral, Director, Institution Centro de Investigação de Políticas de Ensino Superior (CIPES) and Mario Joao Rosa

At European level there are demands for increasing autonomy of higher education institutions, which are counterbalanced by demands for increasing accountability. At European level a quality assurance system is being implemented based on the European Standards and Guidelines adopted at Bergen.
On the one hand, there is the intention of defining standards that should be complied with by the European agencies to become part of the European register. On the other hand, there are demands that the standards should be interpreted by taking into consideration the context of the national higher education system, the role of the agency in the quality assurance system and even the national culture and traditions. Therefore, to be part of the register has recently changed from “full-compliance with all standards” to “substantial compliance”, which may allow for different interpretations and significant imprecision and diverse degrees of flexibility and compliance.
At the same time, news from the US indicate an emerging desire of the federal level to play a more visible role in regulating higher education by stronger intervention of the accreditation system, using the excuse of ensuring increasing institutional accountability, which may strike a parallel with the European situation.
In this paper we analyse these developments and its possible consequences for the balance between the needs and expectations of society with institutional autonomy.

Quality Assurance in the light of the ENQA policy in Greek Technological Educational Institutions (TEI) :Challenges and Prospects

Authors: Maria Kaparou, Course Tutor, Technological Educational Institution of Chalkis, Greece; George Kaimakamis, Course Tutor, Technological Educational Institution of Chalkis, Greece; Maria Panta, Head of Department, Technological Educational Institution of Chalkis, Greece


This paper outlines the major obstacles to the use of labour market success of Graduates as outcome or performance measure and emphasizes the need to put more thought and effort into the development of meaningful indicators. Higher education institutions are, among other things, expected to provide education and training relevant to the demands of working life. Therefore, labour marketsuccess of graduates is frequently seen as the most obvious outcome measure of higher education. In various countries, graduate panels are established to provide this information to the Government.
Higher education institutions or prospective students to inform various decisions. However, the relation of higher education input (courses, classes, certificates etc.) to labour market indicators such as employment rate or income is far from straightforward. Multiple factors influence how graduates fare on the job market, including personal characteristics and (regional and branch-specific) labour market conditions and practices. Using them to compare higher education institutions, regions or nations therefore poses insurmountable challenges. In addition, labour market success cannot meaningfully be captured in one or two simple numbers. The selection, collection and interpretation of the necessary data are complex matters. Information on labour market outcomes can be of great use for quality management, governance or as a basis for further discussion in Higher Education, but as performance measure, it needs to be treated with utmost restraint.

The Growing Accountability Agenda: Progress or Mixed Blessing?

Author: Jamil Salmi, Coordinator, The World Bank, USA 


In the past decade, accountability has become a major concern in most parts of the world.  Governments, parliaments and society at large are increasingly asking universities to justify the use of public resources and account more thoroughly for their teaching and research results.  Is this a favorable development for tertiary education?  Or is there too much accountability, at the risk of stifling initiative among university leaders?  This article outlines the growing accountability agenda, examines some of the negative consequences of this evolution, and considers a few guiding principles for achieving a balanced approach to accountability in tertiary education.  It observes that the universal push for increased accountability has made the role of university leaders much more demanding, transforming the competencies expected of them and the ensuing capacity building needs of university management teams.  It concludes by observing that accountability is meaningful only to the extent that tertiary education institutions are actually empowered to operate in an autonomous and responsible way.

The University of Texas accountability process

Author: Geri Malandra, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Management for the fifteen-campus University of Texas System


Based on a case study of the University of Texas System this presentation describes the development of a comprehensive system of accountability and its impact, in the context of accountability efforts across the state of Texas and the USA.

The paper argues that the identification and assessment of student learning outcomes must be an integral part of a robust accountability framework – looking at student learning outcomes out of context has limited value. As part of an accountability framework they can provide institutions, executive leadership, and governing boards with the kind of information that can drive substantive change and improvement in student success. The presentation will look at how this approach has worked out not only at bigger, more mature institutions but also those that are smaller and growing.

Cui bono? - The Relevance and Impact of Quality Assurance

Author: Professor Vin Massaro, Professorial Fellow, LH Martin Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Management, University of Melbourne


One of the main reasons for conducting external quality assurance in universities is to assure society that higher education standards are adequate, and in an increasingly global market, that they are comparable internationally.  While society has accepted the implicit compact giving autonomy to universities in return for their dispassionate service to society, there has been an increasing demand for accountability for the privileges and funding that it provides.  The introduction of quality assurance systems is a measure of accountability, but it can only succeed if it is acknowledged to measure what is important to society in a manner that society can understand.

For example, in countries like Australia quality assurance has tended to measure the measurable rather than the relevant, so that while it has met compliance requirements it has failed to provide consumer information, continuous improvement or a comparable measure of the quality of institutions.  Its first cycle has measured the adequacy of processes rather than outcomes, based on the argument that good processes will lead to good outcomes.  Its second cycle will measure some outcomes, but not in a way that will guarantee comparable standards.

This paper will argue that society has a right to know whether its institutions of higher learning are capable of meeting its expectations and that its primary interest is knowing that students will receive a standard of education that provides both the technical knowledge required for practice and the general knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society.  The paper will argue that evaluation must measure outcomes against an international threshold.  The paper will examine the results of several quality assurance systems and propose a structure that will have internationally valid measurement criteria. 

Reclaiming Public Confidence in a Competitive Environment: The Views of U.S. College and University Presidents

Author: Peter Eckel, Ph.D, American Council on Education, USA


Universities in the U.S. find themselves in a vice because of fiscal constraints, changing public policies, and heightened demands on and expectations for universities. On one side are the realities of the marketplace with competition for students, resources, prestige and media attention. The other side are demands to address historic social purposes and the traditional public policy objectives of affordability, access, and quality. How do American universities balance these competing demands and reconcile these priorities that often are at odds with one another? How do their leaders they frame the tensions and conflicts? What solutions do presidents offer for moving ahead in both domains?
This paper draws on focus groups of college and university presidents and national higher education leaders convened at the American Council on Education. The particular questions pursued during the focus groups included:

  • How do leaders move their institutions toward agreed upon public goals and objectives and maintain competitiveness? What tensions exist among academic prerogatives, the interests and needs of the public, and marketplace opportunities?
  • How does higher education renew (or maintain, or in some cases, regain) the confidence and respect of the public and state policy makers? 
  • What has been the effect of heightened competition on higher education? How has it affected the historical public policy objectives of cost, quality, and access?
    This paper explores the views of U.S. university presidents on the challenges of competition and public trust, outlines a series of leadership strategies and details next generation challenges.



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