External Quality Assurance in Finnish Higher Education Institutions

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Title: External Quality Assurance in Finnish Higher Education Institutions
Author: Eklund, Max Julius
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2013
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703272448
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Political Science, Administration and Organisations
Yleinen valtio-oppi, hallinnon ja organisaatioiden tutkimuksen linja
Allmän statslära, förvaltnings- och organisationsforskning
Abstract: The importance of universities providing quality-assurance schemes has increased during the last two decades due to, among other things, an increased tendency in public administration to use evaluations as a tool to enhance efficiency and the changed nature of the state-university relationship. Moreover, we can witness an increased integration of European higher education. Also Finnish higher education has been exposed to these trends and external evaluation and quality assurance systems has become a recurring phenomenon. The objective of this research was to analyse organizational responses at universities to the demand of showing a QA-scheme, and to increase understanding on the role of audits in relation to national and supranational developments, from a perspective of organizational intuitionalism. In so doing, attention is put on what kinds of effects and practices a national form of evaluation has, if compared at the organizational level of two universities. The methodological approach builds on insights from qualitative methods, new-institutional theory and organizational institutionalism. The empirical materials used consisted of documents and half-structured interviews. The interviews were transcribed and analysed through the creation of reference codes in the program ATLAS TI. The reference codes were created according to logics of analytic coding. In the research, four core themes were witnessed. First, in implementing processes or reforms that might be perceived critically in universities, the role of commitment and semantics become of high importance, as does a degree of hierarchy. Second, responding to the demand of showing a quality assurance-scheme and succeeding in audits are not seen to be of high importance by university leadership in that only scarce resources were allocated to the exercise. Third, developing the QA-system was clearly accepted to be a response to European developments but this is hardly an instrument for governance that the Ministry of Education would value in comparison to other instruments. Finally, the recommendations made by the audit teams are not as neutral as they seem, in that they do define what the Universities should accomplish. However, the loosely coupled structure has in many ways lessened many of the impacts and recommendation gained from the audits.
Subject: quality assurance
higher education

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