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Managerialism and the risky business of quality assurance in universities

Annemarie Davis (Business Management, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




This paper aims to identify what is needed to enhance academic quality assurance in a university, with specific efforts to reduce the risks associated with ritualised quality assurance practices.


The aspects to enhance academic quality assurance efforts in managerial universities are identified through a thematic analysis of the literature.


It was found that the very nature of managerialism caused quality assurance effort to lose its meaning and become a ritual for compliance only. Subsequently, five aspects were identified to enhance academic quality assurance in a university: establishing quality assurance in the unique context of the institution; ensuring that the efforts of policy makers are aligned with those of policy users; quality assurance based on sound auditing principles without excessively monitoring performance; building a quality culture where quality assurance is practiced in an enabling environment; and allowing quality assurance practices to be adaptable.

Practical implications

The aspects identified are particularly important for quality assurance practitioners, developers of quality assurance processes and academics at universities to enable enhancement of academic quality assurance practices.


This paper argued that the nature of managerialism caused quality assurance to lose its meaning. The abundance of quality assurance tasks, forms and processes do not protect the institution against reputational risks, and quality assurance, as practiced presently, was found to be intrinsically risky. This paper offered an integrated view on how quality assurance efforts can be enhanced.



Davis, A. (2017), "Managerialism and the risky business of quality assurance in universities", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 317-328.



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