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Title: University teachers' perspectives on the impact of quality assurance policies in Chinese higher education : three institutional case studies
Author: Huang, Shan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 8395
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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In the light of growing concerns regarding the quality of higher education after a period of rapid expansion, in 2003, the Chinese government launched the Undergraduate Teaching Evaluation (UTE), the first nation-wide evaluation of universities. In 2008, the UTE was replaced by the Quality Project, which signalled a change in its quality assurance approach, with a move from evaluations to the issuing of awards. In order to investigate the impact of the two national quality assurance policies, along with the impact of two long-standing internal quality assurance mechanisms employed by universities - class observation and student evaluation of teachers - on teaching, the researcher adopted policy analysis and a case study approach. Three different universities in the same region were selected as cases. Semi-structured interviews with 56 heads of department and teachers across three departments at each university were conducted. National and university policy documents, as well as interview data, were analysed thematically in the light of concepts derived from the political sciences, namely Knoepfel et al.'s (2007; 2011) framework for policy analysis and Schneider and Ingram's (1990) classification of policy tools. University policies and interview data revealed the patterns of impact of these two quality assurance policies. Faced with the UTE inspection, universities shifted their focus from assuring the quality of teaching to achieving good results in the exercise and therefore engaging in 'game-playing'. In order to ensure good UTE results, universities even resorted to the manipulation of data. University policies resulting from the UTE required teachers to produce standardised documents and to follow particular procedures. The majority of interviewed teachers regarded the impact of the UTE with cynicism, seeing it as a waste of time and effort, an interference with academic freedom, and believing it had the effect of undermining ethics. However, some teachers reported as positive impact of the fact that the UTE helped to keep teachers disciplined, and that it provided an impetus for ensuring teaching quality. Interview data showed that the Quality Project awards only had an impact on the award winners, who perceived the incentives on offer to be substantial. These award winners considered the acknowledgement given by the awards and the information obtained through reflection and good examples as valuable impacts. However, the Quality Project awards did not have impact on non-award winners, i.e. the majority of teachers. This study revealed that in order to have impact the institutional practices of class observation and the student evaluation of teachers relied on a number of conditions being in place. These practices had impact when the stakes were high or when university teachers received valid and reliable feedback. Whilst high stakes were found to lead to mixed impact, valid and reliable feedback contributed to the improvement of teaching. This study contributes to the understanding of the impact of quality assurance policies and mechanisms on teaching in Chinese higher education, an area that has not yet been the subject of significant empirical research. Covering the two major quality assurance policies in recent years, and also the institutional mechanisms teachers face, this research was able to capture the interdependence between these policies. No such research has previously been conducted in the context of Chinese higher education. In regard to the theoretical aspect of the research, the empirical evidence that was collected and a comprehensive review of other empirical research enabled the development of an Impact Framework. The Impact Framework identified patterns in the impact of various quality assurance policy tools and revealed their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Hence, the Impact Framework can serve in the future as an important reference for policy-makers who are seeking to design and implement effective quality assurance policy tools.
Supervisor: Ertl, Hubert ; Mertova, Patricie ; Stanley, Gordon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: China ; Quality Assurance ; Universities ; Impact Studies ; Public Policy ; Quality Enhencement ; Chinese Higher Education ; Education ; Education ; Higher ; Policy Analysis ; student evaluation of teachers ; policy analysis ; chinese higher education ; universities ; undergraduate teaching evaluation (UTE) ; education policy ; patterns ; teaching ; public policy analysis ; quality project ; policy tools ; higher education ; class observation ; Impact ; academics ; quality enhancement ; teachers ; quality assurance