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The impacts of quality assurance processes on academics in North Cyprus: perspectives, experiences and professional practices

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:09 authored by Figen Arkin
This thesis explores the perspectives of academics on the impacts of quality assurance (QA) processes on their professional practices in a higher education institution in North Cyprus, the European University of Lefke (EUL). After considering how QA might be conceptualized, it describes QA development in this context, before exploring how QA was understood and experienced by a range of different EUL academics. In keeping with a phenomenological approach, the study adopted a qualitative research design. Building on an assumption that social processes reveal the perspectives, thoughts and realities of individuals in context, it examined the social realities of QA from the academics’ perspectives. The epistemological and ontological positioning of the study, therefore, followed a social constructivist and interpretive approach in order to explore the construction of the social processes associated with QA in my research context. Research methods involved documentary analysis of selected institutional texts and semi-structured interviews with 18 academics in different subject areas and of different seniority. Through these, the thesis aims to give voice to academics and to present their situated understandings of quality assurance and its impacts on their professional practices. My findings indicate that QA was viewed positively by many academics, who associated it with ‘quality’ in both academic and administrative practices in higher education. They also understood it as being characterised by standards, transparency and quality in teaching and learning. The study further revealed that achieving quality in teaching and learning was strongly associated with aspects such as adequate provision of technological resources and facilities. The thesis also suggested that academics valued QA as a means of supporting the development of particular qualities in students, such as educating them as professionals, and for their own professional development. Regardless of the variety of meaning that can be attached to the concept of quality and QA, ultimately it was the academics who held individual motivations and wished to have quality in their professional practices, mainly in teaching and learning, although also through the interaction of teaching and research. They also attached significance to research as part of their understanding of quality HE. However, the findings also demonstrate that when implemented, QA processes do not operate in a straightforward way. The empirical data demonstrated that there appeared to be a wide gap between what academics would have liked QA processes to achieve and what they thought it had accomplished. My study suggested that the implementation of the QA initiatives at institutional level has been challenged by a number of weaknesses in implementation due to the absence of institutional text(s) on principles and procedures as well as a lack of procedural orientation on how QA should be carried out. The evidence in my research suggested that academics were not satisfied with the process, partly because they had strong convictions about what quality HE provision might involve, but also because they desired an institutional environment which allowed them more participation in the decision-making process. An important conclusion from this research is the evident difficulties in implementation of QA processes in this context are mainly due to the lack of involvement, participation and cooperation between academic staff and university management. The findings suggest that the key issues which were important for these academics were more communication, more participation that was responsive to academics’ views, and the desire to have such an institutional environment. Instead of this, QA development in this institutional context had resulted in different and individualised QA practices. In this thesis I argue therefore for the need to broaden the communication and cooperation between the academics and the authorities in the conception, implementation and evaluation of change.


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University of Sussex

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