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Internal quality assurance systems: “tailor made” or “one size fits all” implementation?

Sónia Cardoso (CIPES – Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies, Portugal and A3ES – Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education, Portugal)
Maria J. Rosa (CIPES – Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies, Portugal and DEGEIT, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)
Pedro Videira (CIPES – Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies, Portugal)
Alberto Amaral (CIPES – Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies, Portugal and A3ES – Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education, Portugal)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 3 July 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to look at the characteristics of internal quality assurance (IQA) systems of higher education institutions to understand whether these systems tend to reproduce a given model, externally defined and suggested to institutions, or rather to be shaped by institutions’ features and interests.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is supported in the analysis of the content of self-assessment reports of 12 internal QA systems certified, in Portugal, between 2012 and 2015. An analysis grid was used based on three categories: IQA systems’ historical framework, structural/managerial component and monitoring, assessment and continuous improvement.

Findings

Institutions tended to follow a “one size fits all” approach, meaning that external (European and national) quality assurance (QA) references were used in an identical way, giving origin to rather similar IQA systems. Institutional characteristics do not seem to have played a relevant role, eventually due to institutions’ will to obtain their systems’ certification and, thus, achieve a light-touch external QA.

Research limitations/implications

The study was based on the analysis of only certified IQA systems and relies on document analysis. It would be interesting to also include non-certified systems, in a comparative perspective, complemented with data deriving from interviews and/or questionnaires with some of the actors involved in the certification process.

Practical implications

The study provides an understanding of how IQA systems are being implemented in Portugal. Thus, it can be of interest to other institutions as well as to QA agencies.

Originality/value

The study addresses a topic still relatively absent from research on QA in higher education, being of interest for researchers in the field.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the FCT under the project PEst-OE/CED/UI0757/2011 (which is funded by the Programme COMPETE) and grant EXCL/IVC-PEC/0789/2012-GLONATINS-Global Challenges, National Initiatives, and Institutional Responses-Mapping the Transformation of Portuguese Higher Education Institutions at the Dawn of the Twentieth-First Century.

Citation

Cardoso, S., Rosa, M.J., Videira, P. and Amaral, A. (2017), "Internal quality assurance systems: “tailor made” or “one size fits all” implementation?", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 329-342. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-03-2017-0007

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited