Assessing quality in higher education by examining the effects of university experiences on learning outcomes and student development
The thesis is about quality in higher education; what it means, how it is measured, and how it can be improved. It attempts to analyse ways of thinking about higher education and quality, consider their relevance to the measurement of performance of universities, and explore their implications for the selection of criteria, approaches and methods for the assessment of quality in higher education. Forming the basis for the empirical investigation of the thesis is the approach of assessing quality of university education using data collected from individual students about their subjective experiences during the university years and their perceptions of the value of the educational experience. The intention is to investigate the numerous aspects of the student experience in higher education to contribute to the knowledge of quality learning and the necessary conditions in institutions that are required to promote quality learning in students. The setting for the thesis was Lingnan University in Hong Kong, a small, government-funded liberal arts university. Data were collected from two samples of students on two occasions with eight months apart. Data collection was by way of a questionnaire for a wide range of variables about the students' background, university experience and learning outcomes. Findings of the research identified that the change reported by students was related to their educational experience and the effect of different university environments on students' growth and development. Results were reported with implications to provide university administrators, teachers, and students with feedback on how well they have been performing and what conditions are conducive to quality learning and teaching in university. Further, implications were drawn for quality assessment of higher education in Hong Kong by presenting an alternative approach that takes into account the effects of the university experience and students' involvement in it as indicators of university success.