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The Fulbright U. Student Program, a program of the U. The main premise has been a drive for rationalisation, accountability and the incorporation of a business model which dovetailed competitive production knowledge capital for enterprise with value for money, both for the customer student and nation state. This approach concurs with Hermann analysis of the neoliberalisation of Europe They state, "This may lead to instrumentality which would change education from a potential mode of revealing oneself through trust, based on unspecified personal obligation, to one where the economic exchange holds sway" , p The essence of their argument is that academic drift is shaped by the enforcement of a market ideology into scholarly activities.
This construct disempowers the academic community by confining academic freedom. Knowledge and knowledge creation becomes a commodity within a linear process of production. The marketing, sale and efficiency of this production line can be measured. Jackson , p while not adopting as radical a view as Gibbs and Iacovidou however he states the "drivers for change in the HE regulatory regime of the s reflect the political ideologies which have been applied to the whole of the public service sector" namely right wing conservatism.
This was the first time that, the Irish HE sector was legally required to carry out this type of external quality review see the Universities Act, Qualifications Education and Training Act. The reports contained valuable information and there was a commitment given by all concerned that actions would follow from the recommendations. Here I am more interested in exploring the actual experience of having undergone a quality review based on personal reflections as a participant in the DIT Quality Review.
I confine my analysis to theory and practice relating to evaluation as part of applied social research and emphases the following domains, paradigm, methodology and methods. This detailed the schedule for the review, main elements, production of Self-evaluation, and preparation for both visit of Review panel. The EUA requested a Steering Committee ten people be formed to manage, co-ordinate and promote the quality review, to collect and collate relevant data, to draft the self-evaluation report and take ownership of the process.
The EUA stated that their philosophy was formative rather the summative and their focus was on improvement rather then monitoring. The EUA stress that they do not utilise a comparative approach, each institute is explored as a unique case. They emphasised that the Steering Committee should have autonomy, ensure full and active participation and develop an appropriate strategy to fulfil the requirements of the Quality Review. A detailed evaluation checklist was provided for the Steering Committee members.
This enables the EUA to capture macro Higher Education trends and locate the main tenets within their guidelines documentation. These are then marginally customised to suit the context, and both the internal and external environments of the individual institution to be reviewed. In this sense the pragmatic approach is more concerned with outcomes, the effects these outcomes are having and how to improve these outcomes. The cross faculty multidiscipline Steering Committee established by the DIT was effective in developing a methodology and methods for the Self evaluation report as part of the Quality review process.
In relation to operating within a specific paradigm there was no explicit discussion or agreement. It was only during the discourse relating to processing the raw data, in terms of cleaning, refining, describing and presenting findings that paradigmatic divides were raised. The initial discourse related to the value, currency or weighting that should be given to either the quantitative data or the qualitative data.
This is were different disciplines research traditions came to the surface, empirical data numbers was perceived to be more valid, accurate and representative then language data scripts, text. On reflection I suggest that the perspective expressed during these meetings could be clustered into the following paradigms.
My contribution to the discourse was located in the constructivist paradigm; there were three key areas I pursued, inclusive negotiations with actors and agents, the development of a open and transparent consultation process and the adoption of a code of ethics The methodology utilized sought to address the following statements outlined in the EUA Guidelines document;. The process should be representative, collaborative, open, transparent and truthful EUA , p This proved problematic in deciding on a research mode that would adequately fulfil the requirements as set out by the EUA.
In order to give a broad section of the DIT community an opportunity to participate in the consultation process and provide baseline empirical data, a quantitative methodology was employed, consisting of two structured online survey instruments. A qualitative methodology was used to explore and map out the DIT community attitudes and opinions, relating to specific themes and issues in greater detail.
Underpinning this methodology was the rationale to systematically signpost quality practices and map out potential weaknesses. In essence it is a retrospective reflective study of the DIT community. The primary focus of both the qualitative and quantitative modes was to explore issues relating to the strengths and weaknesses of the following six themes as stated in the EUA Guidelines document, see Table 4. EUA: Themes for Quality Review Mission statement Strategic plan Facilities and resources Learning and teaching Quality assurance Organizational structures Table 4, Six themes or variables, used to construct online survey and theme prompt sheets.
Within these themes the EUA wanted the institute to critically reflect on the following questions;. In order to address these questions, utilising both qualitative and quantitative methods, a full document analysis was undertaken of the six themes. The EUA guidelines from this work some key items for inclusion in both the questionnaires and the focus group sessions were identified. Accurate and accessible information flow was viewed as crucial to the success of the consultation process.
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The majority of the DIT community have access to the DIT intranet active emails accounts: 16, students and 2, staff. Therefore electronic communication was identified as a primary conduit for information flow. In order to stimulate awareness and create a readiness to engage in the consultation process, a series of presentations were organized.
The research design utilized a robust multi-method model, which provided data comprising of several different modes of investigation. A quantitative mode which provided statistical data through the online surveys. Qualitative mode, which provided descriptive transcripts from focus group sessions and faculty submissions.
The gathered data mapped out participants attitudes and opinions on potential strengths and weaknesses. The commonality of the research modes was limited to the six themes variables. It was not envisaged that one mode would feed off the other but rather that they should stand alone. However findings could be used in a complimentary fashion to align mutual trends or clusters of common issues. It was noted that the quantitative mode is more suitable to generalizations, while the qualitative mode provides depth and insight.
It was envisaged that by utilizing comparison mapping or triangulation between qualitative and quantitative findings a gauge of the validity of the study can be extrapolated. Both the validity and reliability of the study was bolstered by the nature and experience of the research team SC. I compare this type of model to action research, which Thomson and Perry , p link to Critical theory.
The primary characteristics of comparison are,. While these five characteristics resonate with the tenets of action research. The I locate this mode within the interpretive paradigm with a strong alignment with the naturalistic paradigm of Guba and Lincoln. In conclusion quality reviews and evaluation processes are now the norm for higher education providers in Europe. They provide valuable data for benchmarking, accountability and quality enhancement.
The methodology utilized during these reviews is paramount to the process and the successful implementation of any recommendations. To this end the ENQA has developed a set of guideline proposals for quality reviews within the European higher education sector. The DIT enthusiastically engaged in a current quality review process, proactively developing mechanisms to fulfil the criteria set down by the EUA. The DIT Steering Committee overseeing the review adopted best practice guidelines in both consultation procedures and code of ethics.
Three overarching principles were inclusion, transparency and collegiality. A team-based structure was utilized to develop a multi-level consultation process that dovetailed both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The data gathering stage consisted of three procedures, empirical online surveys, focus groups sessions and submissions from faculty boards; this enabled triangulation of data during the analysis stage.
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Face-to-face presentations were given to various committees totalling staff members, and 71 participants from staff and stakeholder groups agreed to take part in focus group sessions. By applying this methodology throughout, the validity and reliability of the research design is enhanced. The operationalised process also parallels some of the main tenets of a complete cycle of action research such as: identify, plan, implement and evaluate. However, as stated previously, the development and roll-out of the consultation process was more informed by actual practice and the present reality of the context than by theoretical frameworks.
This paper should be viewed as part of emergent work a more in-depth paper is pending. See Crotty pp See Gadotti M. See Silbeck A Bill is the first stage in the development of an Act. The research warrants are used as a lobbying tool in pursuit of the organisations ideological or commercial objectives. In essence this is a political process. See Giddens A. As described by Denzin and Lincoln , Guba and Lincoln Gramsci concept of hegemony. National Partnership Agreement See Sandish, Cook, Leviton , pp for an excellence outline of Weiss and her research on the politics of evaluation and policy making.
These reports are a available from the individual universities websites and the National Qualification Authority of Ireland www. See EUA website for substantial details and material about their approach to quality review and reports and research. See EUA membership, quality review panel selection process, and the experience of the members of review panels www. Conference of Heads of Irish Universities. Dublin Institute of Technology. Dublin Institute of Technology Students Union. European Network for Quality Assurance. European University Association. Higher Education. Higher Education Authority.
National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. Self Evaluation Report. Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union. Teacher Union of Ireland. Steering Committee. Institutes of Technology References. Abercrombie N. Altrichter H. Ambert A. Journal of Marriage and the Family , Vol. Anderson L. Aronson E. Barlas Y. Barlow A. A framework for examining issues of evaluation purpose and use. Evaluation Journal of Australasia, Vol. Barnett R Higher Education: A critical business. Barnett, R. Bensimon, E. Bickman L. Blackwell Publishing, USA.
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