Understanding the interwoven processes of institutional evaluation and continuous improvement : an action research study
The last ten years have brought many changes into European Higher
Education. One of these changes is student mobility. To facilitate mobility, we need
comparable higher education systems and study programs. Many declarations from
academics and governments call for 'transparency', 'accountability' and 'systems of
quality assurance'. These demands have influenced transitions in Slovenia. The
National Higher Education System experie.nced substantial changes after the Higher
Education Act was approved in 1993. The Act enabled the establisrunent of 'private'
and 'free-standing' higher education institutions. Within the described framework,
this study on a self-evaluation 'model' and organisational development was
This case study of a newly established college of higher education is centred
round the processes of institutional self-evaluation. The study is mainly qualitative
in its nature and grounded in action research. This methodological approach bridges
the gap between theory and practice, which is an issue in social sciences. Action
research extended over a four-year period - four cycles, representing four academic
years - from 1996/97 to 1999/2000. A variety of methods were used to gather data.
Among many themes that emerged in the research process, I chose those of
'quality' and 'academic community' to focus my theoretical discussion on. These
two topics were particularly important for the newly established institution that
wanted to be involved in the' European flow' of higher education. This thesis is my
personal journey, where researcher and manager roles are intimately interlinked, as
well as a journey of organisational growth and (partially) an account of
organisational development through self-evaluation. It is not a story of people, it is
about social processes, the construction of meaning and practice critically reflected
through the 'eyes' of the researcher. It is about flux of identities within myself and
organisation's processes, and also about findings - the tensions between 'ecology of
practice' and 'economy of performance'. These tensions resulted in a 'non-model'
where the balance between 'trust and respect among people' and 'the measurement
of results' cannot be resolved.