Organisational culture and external quality assurance

Naidoo, Dhanasagran (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Organisational culture and external quality assurance in higher education have both drawn significant attention to their promise of greater organisational effectiveness and efficiency and enhanced, improved higher education respectively. In recent years, these constructs have been linked by an assumption that an organisational culture that is amenable to change would be more receptive to the introduction of formal external quality‐assurance structures, systems and instruments, as these are aimed at effective and efficient higher education practices, processes and outcomes. However, this assumption has not been sufficiently tested given that there are significant philosophical, conceptual and methodological controversies and contestations surrounding both constructs. While the organisational culture literature has been littered with a proliferation of paradigms and, albeit, fragmented theories, there has been a paucity of theory building in the corresponding literature on quality in higher education in general and on the impact of external quality assurance on institutions specifically. A qualitative case study was conducted at a newly merged university of technology to investigate two taken‐for‐granted assumptions: first, that organisational cultures are homogenous, unitary and centred around shared values and could therefore easily be manipulated (usually from the top by management), and second, that the introduction of external quality assurance is an unproblematic technology that will be accepted without question by higher education institutions as it was premised upon the laudable aim of improving the quality of those institutions. A conceptual four‐perspective framework was developed to critically evaluate the literature and provide the basis for the threedimensional model used in analysing the findings. The research generated several key conclusions that appear to challenge commonly held and articulated positions with regard to organisational culture and external quality assurance. First, organisational culture should be considered as being more ephemeral than concrete, multidimensional than singular, characterised simultaneously by conflict, consensus and indifference and in a constant state of flux. Second, external quality assurance is not necessarily a value‐free and neutral exercise aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning, as promised in its early conceptualisation and implementation. Third, multiple cultures may exist simultaneously, interact with and influence each other constantly and of course determine interactions within the organisation and the nature of engagement with externally originated initiatives. Fourth, external quality assurance has purposes that go beyond its often morally just and public‐good motives as it tacitly and overtly acts as an agent of control, empowerment and transformation and simultaneously as an agent of the state, though not necessarily to the same extent.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Organisatoriese kultuur en eksterne gehalteversekering in hoër onderwys het albei die aandag in groot mate gevestig op hulle belofte van groter organisatoriese doeltreffendheid en doelmatigheid en gevorderde, verbeterde hoër onderwys onderskeidelik. In die afgelope paar jaar is hierdie konstrukte byeengebring deur ʼn veronderstelling dat ʼn organisatoriese kultuur wat vatbaar is vir verandering, meer ontvanklik sal wees vir die invoer van formele eksterne strukture, stelsels en instrumente vir gehalteversekering, aangesien dit op doeltreffende en doelmatige praktyke, prosesse en uitkomste vir en van hoër onderwys gerig is. Hierdie aanname is egter nie voldoende getoets nie gegee die feit dat daar aansienlike filosofiese, konseptuele en metodologiese strydvrae en twispunte ten opsigte van albei konstrukte bestaan. Terwyl literatuur oor organisatoriese kultuur deur ʼn magdom paradigmas en weliswaar gefragmenteerde teorieë oorweldig is, was teoriebou in die ooreenstemmende literatuur oor gehalte in hoër onderwys in die algemeen en oor die impak van eksterne gehalteversekering op instellings in die besonder redelik skaars. ʼn Kwalitatiewe gevallestudie is onderneem by ʼn universiteit van tegnologie wat onlangs saamgesmelt het om twee aannames wat as vanselfsprekend aanvaar is, te ondersoek: eerstens, dat organisatoriese kulture homogeen, unitêr en óm gedeelde waardes gesentreer is en dat dit dus maklik gemanipuleer kan word (gewoonlik van bo af deur die bestuur), en tweedens, dat die invoer van eksterne gehalteversekering ʼn onproblematiese tegnologie is wat sonder teenspraak deur hoëronderwysinstellings aanvaar sal word, aangesien dit op die prysenswaardige oogmerk van verbetering van die gehalte van daardie instellings gegrond is. ʼn Konseptuele raamwerk bestaande uit vier perspektiewe is ontwikkel vir die kritiese evaluering van die literatuur en dit verskaf die grondslag vir die driedimensionele model wat vir die analise van die bevindings gebruik is. Die navorsing het verskeie belangrike gevolgtrekkings na vore laat kom wat algemeen geldende en duidelik bepaalde posisies ten opsigte van organisatoriese kultuur en eksterne gehalteversekering blyk uit te daag. Eerstens moet organisatoriese kultuur beskou word as efemeries eerder as konkreet, multidimensioneel eerder as enkelvoudig, terwyl dit gelyktydig deur konflik, konsensus en onverskilligheid gekenmerk word en in ʼn gedurige toestand van wisseling verkeer. Tweedens is eksterne gehalteversekering nie noodwendig, soos in die vroeë konseptualisering en implementering belowe, ʼn waardevrye en neutrale oefening gemik op verbetering van die gehalte van onderrig en leer nie. Derdens kan veelvuldige kulture gelyktydig bestaan, met mekaar in interaksie tree en mekaar voortdurend beïnvloed en natuurlik interaksies binne die organisasie en die aard van betrokkenheid by inisiatiewe wat ekstern ontstaan, bepaal. Vierdens het eksterne gehalteversekering oogmerke wat veel verder strek as die motiewe daarvan wat dikwels moreel geregverdig en vir die openbare beswil is aangesien dit stilswyend en op overte wyse optree as ʼn agent vir beheer, bemagtiging en transformasie en tegelyk as ʼn agent van die regering, alhoewel nie noodwendig tot dieselfde mate nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1467
This item appears in the following collections: