A more rigid and specific quality management system in higher education institutions (HEIs) is developing under the auspices of the Quality Assurance Agency. The use of models of organisational culture suggest that organisation cultures vary greatly in the higher education sector. Within each HEI there is a mosaic of sub‐cultures making it very difficult to discern what is the dominant culture. The author’s initial analysis of an empirical study of seven HEIs points up the great variance of culture which emanates from differing mission statements, aims and objectives, size and nature of student intake, range of courses and emphasis on research. This article questions whether the developing quality management approach based on standards and benchmarks can gauge accurately and fairly the quality of provision in such a variety of HEIs.
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