The 1990s have seen the emergence of 'quality' as an issue in higher education policy and practice. The form this has taken has varied, but can be schematised into two distinct categories: quality assurance (QA) and quality improvement (QI). In this paper we argue that the quality debate is driven by a political and economic agenda. Accordingly, the form quality takes within universities has become a site for struggle over competing ideological and institutional interests. A tension emerges at the institutional level between quality as a measure for accountability and quality as a means for transformation and improvement. In developing our argument we describe a Quality Improvement (QI) project currently in progress at Griffith University to provide an exemplar of how quality improvement may be used to transform and generate new practices while at the same time meet the demands of accountability.