Acceding To Audits': New Quality Assurance Policy as a 'settlement' in fostering international markets for Australian higher education

Year: 2002

Author: Vidovich, Lesley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Establishment of the national Australian Universities' Quality Agency (AUQA) in 2001 heralded the second incarnation of 'quality' policy in Australian higher education. The new approach contrasts with that of the 1990s in a number of important ways, including the involvement of State governments through their accreditation function. Universities are now acceding to audits by AUQA with less overt resistance than during the 1990s. New power relationships between policy actors and stakeholders at global, national and local levels are emerging.

This paper offers an analysis of new 'quality' policy processes in Australian higher education, based largely on interviews with members of the AUQA Board who represent the major constituencies of Commonwealth and State governments, business/industry and universities ('customers' are a notable absence). The analysis reveals that new quality policy processes represent not only changing Commonwealth-State relations, which have a long and colourful history in Australian education, but a broader 'settlement' as the interests of the various constituencies coalesce around new and more complex 'hybrid' forms of market and managerial accountability forged by a rationale, made explicit by key policy makers, that a national quality audit system will enhance international markets for Australian higher education.