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As Vice Rector in charge of Development and Quality, I am particularly interested in understanding what represents from the point of view of an institution the introduction of Quality approaches, in particular in the field of research. It is therefore mainly in this perspective of responsible for the governance of a University that I will situate my point by developing the elements that constitute the context of quality, then the questions of definition of quality, in particular research to succeed. to propose the development of a quality culture.
"The end of Quality?" . It is under this title that the very serious Society for Research into Higher Education had presented the theme of its conference in May 2001. This title may seem surprising at a time when the notion of quality is experiencing significant, sustained development. by the deployment of the Bologna process in Europe. Beyond the somewhat provocative nature of this title, it is interesting to examine the underlying questions and, in particular, the three main questions that were addressed during this event:
Does the bureaucratization of quality assessment favor quality improvement?
would quality assessment reinforce a pure market logic?
are the quality standards compatible with the increase in students?
These questions are interesting because they highlight the fears and risks underlying the introduction of quality approaches in higher education. They indicate that quality is not necessarily positively connoted. They illustrate what one might call a sort of quality paradox. Indeed, quality is in essence something that we seek. Moreover, the concern for quality is not new and if one is interested, for example, in great "teachers" like Socrates, Plato or Aristotle, it clearly appears that it is of a millennial concern and which animated the teachers until our days. Universities also have ambitions for quality and we have rarely heard a university claim that it had no interest in quality and that it aimed rather for mediocrity.
However, although quality is a priori something desirable, the observation, supported by several researches, is that reactions to the introduction of quality approaches in universities can be negative. It is clear that the reactions relate above all to quality assurance mechanisms but not only and the concept of quality itself is debated. It is not a question here of analyzing in detail all the reasons underlying these reactions, but of briefly mentioning two of them to underline the importance of developing a quality culture at university.
The first of these reasons concerns the relationship between the significant cost of these approaches, whatever the approach envisaged, and the results obtained. Indeed, a certain number of evidences suggest that the result obtained does not necessarily correspond to expectations or to the real improvement in the quality of activities.
The second reason is that questions of quality reveal differences in visions of higher education and the values to be favored.
These observations lead to two conclusions. The first is that the introduction of quality assurance mechanisms can generate significant resistance, therefore the implementation process is very important. The second is that it is not excluded that the introduction of long and costly processes in an institution has no real effect on quality. Basically, this risk is the starting point for thinking about the concept of quality culture. Indeed, the challenge is not only to build a methodologically sound system but also to integrate it into the institutional culture. The concept of quality culture refers to the concept of organizational culture. Widely promoted by the EUA, the concept of quality culture was chosen to convey the concept of quality seen as shared value and collective responsibility by all members of the institution, including students and administrative staff. It is therefore not a question of reserving quality to specialists in methodology alone. The notion of quality culture underlines the need to entrench these notions, their acceptance, their implementation. In other words, for us to develop a quality culture is to reach a situation where all members of the community see the relevance of the steps taken and get involved in their achievement.
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