Development and Testing of an Instrument for the Description and Assessment of Quality Cultures at Higher Education Institutions

1. Current situation

More and more higher education institutions recognize the benefit of autonomous quality assurance and development. Whether the institution plans to start out with quality audits or is in the progress of establishing a comprehensive quality management – the implementation and successful application of such approaches in organisations requires a quality culture which is shared by its members.

The EUA (European University Association) dealt in several projects with the phenomenon of quality culture, presenting the following definition: „Quality Culture refers to an organisational culture that intends to enhance quality permanently and is characterised by two distinct elements: on the one hand, a cultural/psychological element of shared values, beliefs, expectations and commitment towards quality and, on the other hand, a structural/managerial element with defined processes that enhance quality and aim at coordinating individual efforts“ (European University Association: Examining Quality Culture: Part 1 – Quality Assurance Processes in Higher Education Institutions, Brussels 2010).

The challenge in this area of research will be to identify and disclose the effects of the psychological-cultural elements such as values, beliefs or confidence as non-formal components of quality culture.

2. Objective and practical benefit

The project’s objectives are to generate a workable definition of the construct quality culture and, at the same time, to develop a viable and valid instrument which is able to collect and describe both structural-formal and psychological-cultural elements.

Culture of Quality

This instrument will be able to examine scientific issues of the higher education research with relation to quality culture. Moreover, it can give decision makers information about the status quo of the quality culture in their institution in order to derive measures according to their strategy.

3. About the approach

The description and assessment of quality culture will be assigned to three levels:

  • the normative level
  • the strategic level
  • the operative level

On the normative level, quality culture can be found in values, norms, and beliefs related to quality that, as normative settings, form the starting point for the two other levels. On the strategic level, quality culture becomes visible in processes of decision making and planning as well as in organisational building up processes. On the operative level, quality culture is apparent in concrete concepts and measures focusing on quality improvements.

Psychological-cultural elements will be defined and categorised, which is a particular challenge for the Heidelberg project, with the help of literature research and expert interviews. In this way elements such as values, beliefs, and attitudes as non-formal components of a quality culture can be identified and made measurable in respect to qualitative analyses.

The project’s approach is based on the assumption that there is no such thing as the quality culture at higher education institutes. As every higher education institute has its own quality culture due to its educational mandate, its self-conception, and its specific governance structures the Heidelberg project is a joint project having the University of Applied Sciences Mannheim and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University as value partners in order to allow a description and collection of relevant information regarding quality culture which includes different types of higher education institutions.

4. Applicant Institutions

Heidelberg University together with the University of Applied Sciences Mannheim (Hochschule Mannheim) and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University DHBW (Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg)

5. Project Management

6. Steering Board

7. Project Realisation

8. Funding

Bw100 Gr Sw Mwk Weiss-1

Innovation and Quality Fund (IQF) of the Ministry of Sciences, Research and Arts Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Innovations- und Qualitätsfonds (IQF) des Ministeriums für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland)

9. Duration

04/2012 - 05/2015

Responsible: Email
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