Globalising and localising quality policy in australian higher education.

Year: 1999

Author: Vidovich, Lesley

Type of paper: Refereed paper

On the global scene, 'quality' has achieved metadiscourse status during the 1990s across both private and public sectors, and education is no exception. 'Quality' has provided a powerful legitimating tool for restructuring education, but it is a complex and contested phenomenon which requires careful dissection in situ in its localised context.

This paper presents the findings of an analysis of quality policy processes in Australian higher education of the 1990s using a modified theoretical framework of a policy trajectory (Bowe, Ball and Gold, 1992; Ball 1994) which distinguishes contexts of influence, policy text production and practice (effects). Documents and interviews provide data on quality policy processes which extend from the global context (macro level) to individual institutions (micro level).

While global influences were significant, the particular configuration of economic, political and ideological factors on the national scene created a uniquely Australian version of quality policy for higher education, and then the particular contexts of individual universities created differentiation of quality policy processes and effects at different sites. However, despite considerable localised variation in quality policy processes, evidence is presented that the 'big picture' effect of the policy under investigation was to enhance control by Government, albeit within the policy mechanism of 'steering at a distance'. A policy trajectory, derived from the data, is constructed to depict the complex interrelationships between contexts of influence, policy text production and practice in this example, and finally the use of the modified theoretical framework is evaluated.