Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 16, Issue 3
The articles in the issue examine quality in education from a variety of perspectives. One article looks at the implications of external examiner system as in several European countries for improving overall institutional quality. Another looks at how the grade inflation is contributing to a reduced value for institutional judgements in student selection. Another article emphasises the need to take into consideration postgraduate students in determining the institutional service quality. Another article from an old hand in educational quality wonders why the research is continuing to “dig up old ground” instead of adopting new approaches. Another article delves into the “dichotomy and interrelation between customer perception and expectation”. Another one deals with the ethical standards of academics’ behaviour from a students’ perspective. We also carry a critical article on the outcomes of institutional accreditation in Nigeria. We end this multiple perspectives on quality issues with a review of a book on teacher evaluation. Overall, all these aspects constitute some of the different dimensions of quality assurance in education, and together they contribute to making up its rich mosaic.
The first article by Bjørn Stensaker, Ellen Brandt and Nils Henrik Solum on “Changing systems of external examination” reviews and identifies changes in systems of external examinations in Denmark, the UK and Norway. The article concludes that systems of external examinations are being transformed from a focus on student performance to a focus on programme quality and coherence in all three countries studied. The article shows that older and newer forms of quality assurance are becoming more integrated with the potential of creating quality assurance procedures addressing teaching and learning issues more directly.
In the next article, Winai Wongsurawat looks at “Grade inflation and law school admissions” to evaluate the evidence on whether grade inflation has led to an increasing emphasis on standardized test scores as a criterion for law school admissions. The juxtaposing trends of grade inflation and of the increasing predominance of standardized test scores in law school admissions suggest the possibility that grade inflation has had a negative impact on the value of grades as a signal of student ability. This empirical evidence of potentially undesirable consequences of grade inflation should persuade education providers to take active measures to control the inflationary trend.
Next Robert Jonathan Angell, Troy Heffernan and Phil Megicks address the issue of “Service quality in postgraduate education” in order to identify the service factors used by postgraduates in their quality evaluations. They analyse the appropriateness of importance-performance analysis (IPA) in the measurement of service quality and, finally to provide a working example of IPA’s application in a UK-based university. This research provides a valuable insight into the service quality needs of the UK postgraduate segment.
In the following essay, Geoffrey D. Doherty reflects “On quality in education” based on his long association with the quality movement. The reflection focuses on three concepts, which are still the subject of debate, namely: “quality”; “total quality management (TQM)”; and “autonomy”. There are some research implications, if only to deter researchers from digging up old ground. The article concludes that more research into the diversity of and interactions between cultures in academia might prove useful.
The next article is by Roland Yeo dealing with “Brewing service quality in higher education: characteristics of ingredients that make up the recipe”. The paper explores the influences of service quality in higher education and the perceptions associated with its implementation a Singapore tertiary institution. It draws on the underpinnings of SERVQUAL, and discusses the dichotomy and interrelation between customer perception and expectation. The article emphasises that service quality needs to be evaluated based on an integrated experience which occurs in a network of learning spaces created to promote dialogue, inquiry and reflection.
In the next article, Sean Valentine and Roland E. Kidwell discuss “Business students’ ethical evaluations of faculty misconduct”. This study gauged business school student perceptions of the academic conduct of college professors, to determine students’ ethical evaluations of certain potential behaviours of academics. The relationships between perceived academics’ misconduct and several student demographic characteristics including sex and academic classification were also investigated. Academics who wish to be more effective teachers and role models should realize their behaviours are being scrutinized and evaluated by students who make ethical judgments about teacher conduct.
In the next paper, R.A. Alani deals with the topic of “Accreditation outcomes, quality of and access to university education in Nigeria”. In response to the challenges of enhancing quality, the agency of government which is responsible for coordinating university education in Nigeria, the National Universities Commission, evolved a system of academic programme accreditation in 1991 to ensure conformity with minimum standards and to promote quality. This paper examines the outcomes of some of those accreditation exercises and how they have influenced the quality of, and access to university education.
Finally, the book review by David Hodges of “Accountable teacher evaluation” is presented. The central argument of this book is that the evaluation of teacher effectiveness is a critical factor in the improvement of teaching. In particular, it argues that student and peer evaluation of teacher effectiveness are either unreliable or of little real value. While the book provides some insights into how a teacher evaluation system could be developed and implemented, the reviewer considers that it is unlikely that the ideas presented in this book could be readily adapted internationally.
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, and practices for, quality in education.