A history and critique of quality evaluation in the UK

Lee Harvey (Centre for Research and Evaluation, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To provide a history of the emergence of quality systems from the mid‐1980s. To show how quality became a primary policy concern in higher education policy. To map the development of quality processes and raise questions about dominant approaches and express concerns for the future.


Historical document analysis.


The problems in institutionalising quality are analysed and it is concluded that the British system of quality monitoring failed to engage with transformative learning and teaching.

Practical implications

As the UK developments guided many other countries into developing a system of quality, the UK history of the emergence and development of quality processes 1985‐2005 is of interest to international readers. It identifies both good practice and what to avoid.


The historical analysis reveals how quality evaluations were guided as much by political pragmatism as rational evaluation.



Harvey, L. (2005), "A history and critique of quality evaluation in the UK", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 263-276. https://doi.org/10.1108/09684880510700608

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