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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The quest for improvement in the quality of education provision has gathered pace, as the political and economic environment has demanded increasing accountability of organisations that are recipients of public funds. The approaches that are being deployed to deliver on the quest for improvement are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Furthermore, the breadth of disciplines from which approaches to improvement is initiated also increasing. These trends are apparent in the current issue.
In this issue, we have a range of approaches presented to bring about quality in higher education institutions. They range from the highly analytical economic modelling approach (by Färe, Grosskopf, Forsund, Hayes and Heshmati), to a questionnaire-based holistic approach as advocated by Tam. Within this range, Mizikaci advocates a systems-oriented approach, and Thakkar, Deshmukh and Shastree take up the challenge of fitting quality function deployment methodology, normally used for deriving product specifications, to determining the operational characteristics of the whole institution. Our take on all these is that all of these approaches are valid, provided cultural parameters within the institution are set right for a fully collaborative approach rather than a conflict-oriented, or control based norms of interactions.
In addition, we touch on another key function to bring about quality in institutional operations: educational development. Havnes and Stensaker present three case studies from Scandinavia, which illustrate the different roles the centres for educational development could play in institutional dynamics. Flood’s review of Land’s book of educational development, gives us a sensitive perspective of the roles and styles of operation of such developers in an institution’s function. Finally, as if to provide a right note to end all these diverse discussions, the book review by Ziguras emphasises the need to adopt a realistic rather than a romantic view of the functions of educational institutions in analysing their performance. Thus, we cover an extensive territory on the performance aspects of higher education in this issue.
In the first paper in the issue, Havnes and Stensaker investigate the role of educational development centres, and their potential for playing a broader and more central role in quality and organisational development. The paper is based on the results of three external evaluations of educational development centres in Denmark and Norway, combined with a literature review of studies of educational development centres. The paper points to the need to broaden the focus of educational development, and link it closer to other processes related to quality and organisational development.
In the next paper, in a true spirit of international collaboration, professors from three continents: Färe, Grosskopf, Forsund, Hayes and Heshmati apply methodologies of economic modeling to compute productivity including a measure of quality in public education at a micro level. They employ a “Malmquist productivity index” which allows for aggregation of multiple outputs, such as test results and promotions. They also provide a way of computing quality and quantity components of overall productivity.
The following paper by Mizikaci proposes an evaluation model for the quality implementations in higher education through an analysis of quality systems and program evaluation using a systems approach. The author argues that the three concepts, quality systems in higher education, program evaluation and systems approach, are found to be consistent and compatible with each other in regard to the goals and organizational structure of the higher education institutions.
The next paper, by Thakkar, Deshmukh and Shastree, explores the potential for adoption of TQM in self-financed technical institutions in the light of new demands and challenges posed by students and society. The paper presents the use of quality function deployment (QFD) which prioritizes technical requirements and correlates them with various students requirements for the present Indian context. The authors claim the novelty of work to lie in use of a mix of qualitative and quantitative approach, which evaluates not only the present system but develops an understanding on future challenges to continuous improvement.
In the following paper, forming the first part of a comprehensive report, Tam describes a research study that aims to assess the relationship between the university experience and student outcomes. The present paper focuses on the research methodology deployed. Underlying the methodology are four research questions that determine the empirical design, the process, the selection and adaptation of an appropriate measurement instrument. The paper interrogates the various methods of analysis and identifies the limitations that are inherent in the overall design.
In the book review that follows, Flood reviews the book on educational development by Land. The book is said to have been in response to the need to for educational developers to be recognized as a professional group working within the higher education sector. The book is said to identify clearly that educational development is a diverse and fractured community of practice. Flood considers the book “ … to provide great support and direction for those who are interested in the processes and have the desire to effect change within the fast changing world of Higher Education”.
In the final piece in the issue, Ziguras critically reviews the attempt by the editors Walker and Nixon in Reclaiming Universities from a Runaway World in their book. The book is said to be “…heavy with the language of crisis and despair” by the reviewer. In general, he feels that an attempt to understand the forces pushing for change within universities is not portrayed realistically by the contributors. Despite the repeated calls by the contributors to engage across different sectors in education, the authors are said to be “… speaking to themselves and their immediate colleagues, in ways that will baffle and alienate those outside their disciplines”.
Finally, the team hopes that the articles included for your consideration in this issue will provide inspiration for reflection, individually and collectively, to review some of the perspectives on quality in higher education.
John DalrympleFor the Editorial Team