The search for consensual, effective and meaningful agreements over the purposes, means and outcomes of quality assurance continues to tax the inventiveness (and at times, patience) of academics, administrators and other stakeholders in many institutions of higher education, educational systems and quality assurance agencies. Studies into several systems reveal that there are significant differences of opinion between key stakeholders, particularly about the effectiveness, appropriateness and insightfulness of operating schemes and new proposals. Yet internal and external monitors of quality assurance claim that progress is being made, quality assured, even enhanced, albeit whilst simultaneously identifying weaknesses and gaps which need to be addressed. One pivotal aspect surrounds the ways in which both departments/programmes within institutions and institutions as a whole in responding to external agencies position themselves in the handling of quality assurance. The array of responses is complex, multi-stranded and often evolutionary; however, the relative weighting of two components, strategy and tactics, appears to be highly in¯ uential. Predominately tactical responses, it is argued, may succeed, in terms of the outcomes of external evaluations of quality assurance but are unlikely to build either an institutional or system-wide culture of quality assurance and continuous improvement. The evidence that has been gained over the past decade of quality assurance in higher education points to the centrality of strategy over tactics, and within the former, to the need to align leadership with ownership, and internal cultures with quality cultures.
- quality assurance