This paper critiques two decades of the quality assurance movement in higher education, based on 400 articles published in the international journal Quality in Higher Education. It reveals, first, that there has been little theorising of quality and of quality assurance. Second, that quality as applied to higher education is not necessarily coincident with the operation of quality assurance processes. Third, there has been considerable confusion of the notions of ‗quality‘, ‗standards‘ and ‗quality standards‘. Fourth, quality assurance is notable for a lack of trust. Fifth, there is a preoccupation with expensive bureaucratic procedures albeit they have ensured a degree of transparency. Sixth, there has been a general failure to align quality assurance processes with the improvement of student learning. These conclusions reflect the disinclination of quality assurance to confront the nature of student learning. In short, quality assurance has failed to align quality culture with academic culture.
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