Paulina Mihailova, Doktorand, Socialantropologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet

The Policy-Making Club. Constructing European quality assurance policy

Higher education today is seen as a strategic resource in the hands of policy-makers, aimed at providing Europe with a competitive edge on the global arena. Governments and academic institutions across Europe are encouraged to enter into processes of intergovernmental as well as supranational cooperation and to commit themselves to a shared framework for high-quality education.

At a stage when policy-makers are ever more sceptical about the way higher education institutions are using public resources, academics are faced with questions of the social and economic relevance of their disciplines. Hand in hand with the opening-up of national higher education systems to common European policy reforms, managerial rhetoric and practices have entered universities in the name of ensuring that higher education is delivering the kind of ‘outputs’ society values and expects. Standing out among those practices is quality assurance. Proclaimed as an important mechanism to hold academic institutions accountable, quality assurance has ushered a shift in conceptions of academic quality, as well as, a re-conceptualisation of what an academic institution is and how it should be governed.

The dissertation investigates European higher education policy reforms and processes, with a focus on quality assurance policy. The study provides ethnographic insight into the field of quality assurance policy-making in Brussels. In particular, the book looks at how quality assurance standards and mechanisms, as a tool of governance, are constructed, contested, circulate and are ultimately negotiated through the interaction among a variety of actors involved in the field of quality assurance. The aim is to shed light on how relations created on the basis of social interaction, link different people, organisations and policy-making contexts, and make possible the formation of European quality assurance policy.

Granskare: Linda Wedlin, universitetslektor, Företagsekonomiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet.