Creativity and Diversity: Challenges for quality assurance beyond 2010 – ‘Zen, Motorcycle Maintenance, and the Metaphysics of Quality’

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Author(s)Rob Carmichael
This paper examines the nature of the relationship between the creative, diversity-friendly and the predictability, standardisation-driven aspects of quality assurance when looked at through the lens of Robert Pirsig‟s „Metaphysics of Quality‟.
In 2007, in an edition of the journal Quality Assurance in Education there was an interesting article by Laurie Lomas of Kings College London entitled: “Zen, motorcycle maintenance and quality in higher education” (a paraphrase of the title of Robert Pirsig‟s seminal 1970‟s book on the „Metaphysics of Quality‟ – “Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance”), in which Lomas draws a distinction between the holistic „Zen‟ „transformative‟(i.e. creative, diversity-friendly approach to quality favoured by academics), and the „mechanistic‟ „narrow‟ „motorcycle maintenance‟ approach to quality typically (predictably) adopted by external quality assurance agencies.
These propositions are then examined, by exploring Pirsig‟s „Metaphysics of Quality‟. This section includes consideration of various propositions about the nature of quality, from the creative and innovative, to the view of quality assurance as a maintenance manual for ensuring predictability and standardisation.
The paper concludes by endorsing approaches to quality which strike a harmonious blend or balance between the creativity/diversity-friendly, and predictability/standardisation aspects.
CategoriesQuality of HE » 2009 4th EQAF