Quality [...]

"learning our lesson" cites Biggs statement that quality can be defined as an outcome, a property, or a process.

From Biggs (2001) citing Harvey and Green (1993) - three types of quality

  1. Quality as value for money.

    A "quality" institution in this view is one that satisfies the demands of public accountability. It produces, for example, more graduates for fewer public dollars, more peer-reviewed publications per capita of academic staff, has more Ph.D.s on its staff, and a strategic plan that signals high levels of self-funded activities.

  2. Quality as fit for the purpose.

    The “purpose” is that of the institution. Universities have several purposes, with teaching and research as the most important. My concern here is restricted to the purpose of getting students to learn effectively, and to accredit that they have learned to publicly recognizable standards. The basic question then for QA is: Are our teaching programmes producing the results we say we want in terms of student learning?

  3. Quality as transforming.

    Quality teaching transforms students’ percep- tions of their world, and the way they go about applying their knowledge to real world problems; it also transforms teachers’ conceptions of their role as teacher, and the culture of the institution itself.

Biggs then gets into Quality Assurance (QA)

  1. Retrospective QA

    looks back to what has already been done and makes a summative judgment against external standards. The agenda is managerial rather than academic, with accountability as a high priority; procedures are top-down, and bureaucratic.....despite the rhetoric not functionally concerned with the quality of teaching and learning, but with quantifying some of the presumed indicators of good teaching and good management, and coming to some kind of cost-benefits decision

  2. Prospective QA

    concerned with assuring that teaching and learning does now, and in future will continue, to fit the purpose of the institution. It also encourages continuing upgrading and improvement of teaching through quality enhancement (QE).

    Prospective QA is not concerned with quantifying aspects of the system, but with reviewing how well the whole institution works in achieving its mission, and how it may be improved. This

Biggs again (emphasis added)

Likewise, Seymour (1993) points out that, because quality resides not in any one performance indicator but in the way the system as a whole works, individual indicators do not give a picture of the whole, which is what matters


Biggs, J. (2001). The Reflective Institution: Assuring and Enhancing the Quality of Teaching and Learning. Higher Education, 41(3), 221–238.

Learning our lesson: review of quality teaching in higher education

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