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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Quality assurance in British Columbia higher education : a policy analysis Siedlaczek, Katarzyna


The notion of quality in higher education has received considerable attention in the literature in recent years, often acknowledging that it is a contested concept. Given the wide range of views on quality, practices related to quality and quality assurance have at times had a mixed reception within higher education. Quality assurance is broadly described as the practice of assessing quality as an important way of improving quality. Closely connected are other concepts such as accountability, transparency, autonomy, and trust, each of which add to the complex picture around quality within higher education. This study examines the 2016 policy introduced by the Province of British Columbia called the Quality Assurance Process Audit (QAPA). This policy applies to all public post-secondary institutions, and requires that institutions undergo an audit of their quality assurance processes led by an appointed panel of experts. My research looks at the range of influences that led to the development of the QAPA policy to explore how and why it came to be implemented, and how it is being perceived and interpreted in practice by senior academic leaders within BC’s college and institute sector. The study draws on Bowe, Ball and Golde’s (1992) contexts of policy framework, the notion of policy borrowing, and the literature on the sociological concept of institutions, with a focus on Lawrence and Suddaby’s (2006) notion of institutional work. The findings from this study indicate that key influences leading to the QAPA policy include the 2011 Stubbs Report, policy borrowing from Alberta and other provinces, and the growing need to align with international standards and evolving expectations around quality assurance in higher education. The policy is characterized by senior academic leaders as a constructive addition to quality assurance in the province, providing clarity in expectations while recognizing institutional diversity. The policy builds on past practices and contributes to further institutionalizing quality assurance at the provincial and individual institutional levels. It has also amplified the need for intentional work, sustained attention, and knowledgeable, reflexive actors to establish and maintain quality assurance practices to ensure the persistence and stability of the institution of quality assurance.

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