Expanding the horizons of university learning through quality management:A comparison of the effects of different evaluative methods on curriculum and accountability
Edith Cowan University
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of International, Cultural and Community Studies
Quality management initiatives have been introduced into universities both as a means of learning how to improve the education that students receive and as part of an ideological initiative to make universities more responsive to the opinions of students and future employers. A problem occurs because these two uses of quality management are not always mutually compatible. In organisational terms, tensions exist between the requirements of organisational learning and those of accountability, and this may be exacerbated if evaluative measures are inappropriately integrated into the organisational reward system. This paper contrasts the use of Graduate Attributes with Graduate Skills Assessments in quality management from an organisational learning perspective and explores the strengths and limitations of each. Although the internal validity of the Graduate Skills Assessment test has been extensively developed, its impact on curriculum, its acceptability to students, and the practicalities of using the test for benchmarking purposes have received less attention. The method of developing Graduate Attributes through curriculum change processes is well established, but the inherent limitations of this method for quality assurance purposes are rarely discussed. The problem will be addressed using a case study method that describes and analyses the use of Graduate Attributes as a quality improvement tool and the potential considerations for any widespread use of the Graduate Skills Assessment test. The paper concludes that although each approach has some merit, there are dangers if the measures appropriate to quality assurance are permitted to dominate quality management and impede organisational learning initiatives that are essential to authentic quality improvement.