The hidden presumptions of commercially derived quality Management in Higher Education

Document Type

Book Chapter


Editions Rodopi B.V.


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Cooper, T. (2005). The hidden presumptions of commercially derived quality Management in Higher Education. In Preston D (Eds.). Contemporary Issues in Education (pp. 115-139). Location: Editions Rodopi B.V. Available here


Adoption of commercially derived quality management techniques in higher education worldwide has led to changes in the language used to describe both purposes of higher education and relationships between teachers and learners within higher education. This chapter examines whether the presumption that business relationships can be applied to the context of higher education can be justified. Commercially derived methods of quality management rely upon tacit assumptions that there are 'businesses: with ‘customers' who buy 'products.' If these terms cannot be meaningfully applied to education, then commercial methods of managing and measuring quality are not applicable to universities. The chapter reports part of a study of quality management in higher education in Australia. The study concludes that the current usage of the term 'quality' in Australian higher education relies heavily on the presumption that the language of business is applicable to education, but examination of key documents illustrates that application of business language to universities uncovers irresolvable contradictions. The findings of this study suggest that quality in higher education must be re-conceptualised to take account of differences between the context of education (its purposes, the nature of its internal and external relationships) and that of business.