Higher education worldwide is undergoing fundamental shifts in its character, in response to universal massification, global marketisation, widened accountability, state intervention, rapid technological advance, increased risks of media visibility, changed patterns of public and private funding, and growing consumerism. The response to this complexity, by both national quality systems and individual institutions, remains interestingly and inevitably contextualised – socially, culturally, economically and politically. This session will draw on the findings of a current EC-funded project on identifying barriers to quality standards and guidelines in Europe (IBAR), as well as a recent analysis of quality enhancement across five continents (Land & Gordon, in press) to analyse the changing relationship of higher education to state and society. It will offer an analytic model of possible future approaches to quality management and regulation based on ‘high fidelity’, ‘low fidelity’, ‘managerial’ and ‘consumerist’ strategies. One can observe in the model a strong interplay of internal and external dynamics, and the possibility for more than one approach to be operating within a higher education sector, quality regime (or even a single institution) at any given time.
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