Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

The impact of national quality management requirements on teaching and learning in Australian universities

Tonia Naylor
Academic Staff Development
Curtin University
This paper (1) explores several background issues in connection with the Quality Audits (2) discusses the possible effects on University culture (3) focuses on the effects of the audits on teaching and learning. Firstly, background information of the Quality Audits includes: historical background, theoretical perspective, philosophical and political perspectives, the structure of the Committee, the modus operandi of the Committee, requirements on the universities and response by universities. Secondly, it reflects on four major areas affecting teaching and learning culture in relation to the background: culture of teaching and learning; management issues; funding issues and industrial issues. Finally information from the two previous sections is drawn to provide the basis for the crucial issue: the impact of national quality management requirements on teaching in Australian universities. The paper leaves the reader with the question: How do you demonstrate quality teaching?

Introduction

Quality Audits of universities are a recent innovation in an increasingly strong push by the Commonwealth to maintain control of University education. It will be demonstrated that examination of this process can aid individual teachers in their definition of effective teaching and in determining teaching practice which is congruent with Faculty, University and National requirements.

Background

There has been an increasingly national and international move to implement the principles of Total Quality Management (TQM) in higher education by provision of a series of funding and reward arrangements which encourage higher education to focus on predetermined performance indicators and meta criteria.

Historical Background

Quality Audits are conducted by 'The Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education' and results are presented to the federal Minister for Employment Education and Training for consideration in the distribution of funds which may not exceed 5% of the universities operating budget and are to be used for maintenance or improvement in quality. The funds come from the National Priority Reserve Fund and are distributed under section 18 of the 'Funding of higher education Act 1988'. The Committee was established on the 9th of November in 1992 and there is currently some debate about its continuance.

Theoretical perspective

Our current practice in Quality Audits originates from an industry background of TQM. The language of the Audits clearly indicates this: 'consumer', 'client' and 'service provider'. Further, there is a focus on performance indicators and meta criteria and a linkage of these to funding (Hattie et al 1991). The current perspectives in education are borrowed from economics and commerce and are focusing on performance indicators.

Political perspectives

Since the 1950s there has been an increasingly strong move towards Commonwealth control of higher education. (Marshall, A. 1992). There is also a move towards international direction in higher education (Hattie et al 1991). In 1988 the White Paper indicated that funding would become linked to the use of performance indicators. In 1992 the foundations for the Quality Audit were laid by the National Board of Employment Education and Training in the document 'Achieving Quality'. In 1993 the first Quality Audit took place and by late 1994 the continuance of the process was being questioned.

Structure of the Committee

The Committee for Quality Assurance in higher education reports to the Federal Minister for Education Employment and Training after having received advice from the local Review Teams. The secretariat for the Committee is located in the Quality Enhancement and Assurance Section of the Higher Education Division of the Commonwealth Department of Employment Education and Training (Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education [CQAHE] 1994a).

Modus Operandi of the Committee

The train of events that results in the Committee making recommendations to the Minister is as follows:
  1. The Minister appoints the Committee.
  2. The Committee appoints the Review Teams.
  3. Members of the NUS of universities request to be audited and prepare a quality portfolio.
  4. The University is visited by the Review Team.
  5. The Review team evaluates the portfolio and prepares a draft report which it submits to the Committee.
  6. The Committee finalises the report and prepares a Report on the years Quality Reviews for the minister together with its recommendations.
  7. The Minister makes his/her deliberations.
  8. The Vice-Chancellor has the opportunity for an oral briefing on her/his institution after the Minister's announcements have been made.
  9. The Report on Quality Review is presented to Parliament (CQAHE 1994c).

Requirements on the Universities

Overtly one could say the requirements are minimal. The university is to be a member of the UNS, to prepare a Quality Portfolio to make the Vice Chancellor available for an oral briefing and to continue to act in a manner outlined by the Committee and to maintain or improve on a previous year's performance.

Response by the Universities

There seems to be unanimous support for the Quality Audit although there has been some speculation as to why there is such support as the grants are rather minimal (Henderson, 1994).

This background hints at how a University culture maybe required to yield to forces demanding structural change.

University culture

Quality Assurance is being presented as something new. In fact the focus on quality is nothing new. What is new is the imposition of the 'processes of quality' and the way in which quality is being defined. The change in the definition of teaching effectiveness in terms of a market economy rather than education requires a corresponding change in university culture.

The new language of TQM prepares us for our changed task. We are required to work towards 'outcome measures', 'products', and clients'. We now prepare students for that market economy in a global society.

At the grass roots the reaction has been concerned disinterest. Henderson states:

For a great many academics, "commercial" equates with "distasteful"...The fact that the practice and philosophy of total quality management arose in an industrial context has not escaped them... (Henderson, 1994 pp 7-8).
Most academics are not so shallow as to be confused by jargon. Most can see that change in language usually accompanies change in practice.

There has been a move away from university management, to state management, and now to national management, with International management looming high on the horizon. (For example the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) is currently establishing a set of Performance Indicators for higher education [Hattie, et al 1991]).

What then are the major changes expected in our teaching and learning? When determining the worth of a teacher we are now encouraged to examine: how many students passed the unit; how many papers have been published, how many conferences they have been to; how many papers have been presented; and so on. There seems to be a disconcerting focus on quantity (Wilshire, B 1990). This probably occurs at the expense of quality or personal health. Increasingly there seems to be 'job sharing' in an attempt to continue to meet the requirements. The number of joint presentations and joint papers is increasing. The length of the papers is decreasing. Gone are the days when one spent the best part of one's life perfecting 'the paper'; a tome which was the definite paper on the subject.

Effects of the quality audits on teaching and learning

Sociological Questions

Is there an attempt to conduct a system/culture change through the use of quality audits?
After examining various sources it would appear that there is generally a shift in several areas. University culture is increasingly coming under national and international influence. The definition of teaching and effectiveness is being taken out of the academic arena and moved into the political policy arena. Funding is increasingly attached to compliance. Processes are being changed and controlled externally. The language, for the linguists amongst us, and therefore the meaning of education is being changed. Academics are starting to lose autonomy of thinking. Quality is being determined externally. Teaching becomes a job, students become clients and employment becomes the desired outcome.

Management Questions

How does the quality audit affect the management of a university?
How does the quality audit link the university with National and International policies?
There are a number of management documents which may help to inform our definition of effective teaching. These documents would help to determine whether our mission, vision, goals and objectives as an individual teacher are congruent with those of our department, university and country. If our personal definition of effective teaching is to be reflected in some way in Australian higher education it is important that we become involved in the management process that formulates the definition. One must ask how many of us relish the opportunity to have input into the Annual Report or the Programme Review or even the Quality Portfolio in our Faculties and universities? Indeed how many of us seek opportunities to be involved in: student evaluation of teaching; peer review; annual appraisal; comments on publications and research; informal feedback; and promotions committees? Each of these practices are components of quality control processes which allow indirectly for input into the definition of effective teaching.

Promotions committees implement university guidelines which generally outline quite clearly what the University values in education at the various levels of appointment. This management tool is closely linked to the universities definition of effective teaching at various levels of appointment.

Recently there has been increasing support at a national level for the formal use of student evaluations (Marsh and Roche 1994, Piper W 1993, and Eley and Thompson 1992). The Quality Audits reflect this focus (CQAHE, 1994b). Although there are some concerns regarding the quality of the student evaluations there seems to be widespread acceptance of their use in higher education. This is probably due to the fact that student feedback on teaching quality and course quality have enormous potential for improving the quality of teaching if they are done correctly.

To some extent teaching pedagogue may also be found in the various management documents. When being led by pedagogical directives in management documents, one needs to be aware of possible conflict between values within the same document. One need not look too far to find conflicts in value statements (CQAHE, 1994b).

It can be seen that the various management practices at faculty, university, national, and international level, impinge on our definition of effective teaching. They also assist us to inform our personal philosophies on education and review our teaching practice.

Funding

To what extent is funding linked to outcomes of quality audits?
Is funding to the University greatly affected by results of quality audits?
Funding is being used as the incentive to implement change. Only members of the National Unified System (NUS) of universities are eligible to be Audited. Only half of these may gain a share of the funds. In determining grants the Committee will consult other government instrumentalities before recommendations are made to the minister.

Funding for the Quality Assurance Programme (of which the Quality Audit is one arm) is appropriated under s18A of the Act (Higher Education Funding Act 1988). The Minister can discern if funds are to be distributed. He or she needs to be 'satisfied that assistance will be used to maintain or enhance the quality of higher education' (CQAHE, 1994c).

In monetary terms 'the maximum grant the Committee can recommend for an institution is equivalent to five per cent of an institution's operating grant'. The money is dependent upon the result in the Quality Audit and previous expenditure of quality funds.

At University level utilisation of funds occurs through a variety of means depending on the University.

Industry

To what extent does the quality audit affect the promotions procedures?
How does the quality audit affect staffing?
These questions are indirectly related to the quality of teaching and learning. Presumably the better teachers get the promotions and get appointed. As we all know, this is not always the case. There may be a large number of extraneous variables that come into play with both promotions and appointments. As both promotions and appointments are so easy to manipulate it would be reasonable to suggest that both would be easily influenced by the pressure of University bureaucracy to comply with Quality Audit requirements. Similarly it would presumably be equally easy not to comply.

Teaching

How does the quality affect teaching and learning?
How should the quality audit affect teaching and learning?
By way of conclusion I would like to summarise the ways in which the Quality Audit may be seen to affect teaching and learning. After examining the background issues it can be seen that there is an increasingly national and international move to implement the principles of TQM in higher education. Although the notion of 'Achieving Quality' in higher eduction is being presented as something new, experienced teachers know that monitoring effectiveness preceded the principles of TQM by many decades. Close examination of the theoretical and political perspectives of TQM shows that what is occurring is much more than a monitoring of quality. The structure and modus operandi of the committee set in place the requirements for a culture change on a national and international scale. The principles of TQM appear to be resulting in a shift from autonomous free thinking professional academics in which self regulation and discourse lead to improvement in practice, to one in which academics function in a market economy in a global society in which the primary aim of education is jobs or more realistically the maintenance of the system in which a market economy can comfortably exist.

Teaching is affected in many ways as a result of the management changes required. Congruence between personal mission, vision, goals and objectives as an individual teacher will need to mirror those of department, university and country if we are to gain opportunities in promotions and appointment. This congruence will be monitored in various ways through student evaluations and those of colleagues. Congruence will be so important as to determine which pedagogy and which practice is acceptable. Teachers will no longer be in control of the definition of teaching and education, let alone the monitoring of effectiveness which flows from the definition.

There will be uniformity in diversity and universities will become more marketable overseas. These changes will be encouraged through policy, funding, and changes to lines of accountability.

I would like to leave you with two questions. "Who is determining what constitutes teaching effectiveness? Why?"

References

Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, (1994a). Report on 1993 Quality Reviews. Minister for Employment Education and Training.

Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, (1994b). Draft Quality Review Report. Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, (1994c). Quality Assurance Program Guidelines. Department of Employment Education and Training (DEET).

Eley M, Thompson M, (1992). A system for student evaluation of teaching. DEET: Monash University.

Hattie, J., Tognolini, J., Adams, K. and Curtis, P. (1991). An evaluation of a model for allocating funds across departments within a university using selected indicators of performance. DEET: University of Western Australia.

Henderson A, 1994. Is quality management transforming the culture of the academy? Proceedings from the XVIIIth AITEA annual conference Managing Quality.

Higher Education Funding Act (1988). Australian Government Publishing Service.

Marsh and Roche (1994). The use of students' evaluations of university teaching to improve teaching effectiveness. Final report. DEET: University of Western Sydney, Macarthur.

Marshall N. (1992). Higher education policy-making: a role for the states? Journal of Tertiary Education Administration, 14(1), 47-59.

National Board of Employment Education and Training (1992). Higher Education: Achieving quality. National Board of Employment Education and Training: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Piper, D. W. (1993). Quality management in universities. DEET: The University of Queensland.

White Paper (1988). Policy statement on higher education. Minister for Employment Education and Training.

Wilshire, B. (1990). The Moral Collapse of the University. New York: State University of New York Press.

Please cite as: Naylor, T. (1995). The impact of national quality management requirements on teaching and learning in Australian universities. In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p180-185. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/naylor.html


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