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Salla Sissonen

As an afterthought to the chapters in the book, this epilogue plays with the idea of looking to the future by briefly examining what is happening at earlier stages of education today. By understanding some of the objectives of the Finnish national core curriculum 2014 and taking a look at the practices at school, we can imagine the optimal skillsets that a now 12-year-old child will have when they enter higher education in a few years’ time. Optimally, we will be faced with a person with a developed understanding of how they learn best, a creative learner and problem-solver with skills in meaningful use of technology. This chapter argues that it does not mean the efficient future learners will not require teaching; on the contrary, we will continue to need competent pedagogical thinkers to guide the students on their individual paths to lifelong-learning.

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Annika Zorn, Jeff Haywood and Jean-Michel Glachant

The introduction discusses how the digital trend that has substantially disrupted other sectors is transforming the higher education sector or even posing a threat to academic institutions’ core business. What could be the rationale for higher education institutions to incorporate a comprehensive digital agenda into their core strategy? Outlining the main developments over the past years in the areas of education, research and knowledge sharing, the authors argue that academic institutions are still far from grasping the full potential of what the digital offers to the academy. Not only does the adoption of online and open practices allow universities to respond to major challenges facing them today, but a digital vision also allows higher education institutions to re-define their role in society. Subsequently, the authors outline how the examples discussed in the book, stemming from a variety of academic contexts, will enrich our understanding of what ‘moving online’ might entail and how to make it work in practice.

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Edited by Gita Steiner-Khamsi and Alexandra Draxler

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Mats Benner

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Edited by Ellen Hazelkorn, Hamish Coates and Alexander C. McCormick

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Jeroen Huisman

From the mid-1980s on, accountability has been part and parcel of the higher education fabric. Much research has highlighted accountability reforms and observed that balancing autonomy and accountability remains a challenge. This chapter highlights that many of the concerns can be traced back to different perceptions and expectations of pertinent stakeholders. To support this claim, insights from the public administration literature are presented, and particularly the notions of accountability forms, functions and forums. The latter notion suggests that audiences may reflect differently on accountability: a political forum (for instance, parliament) versus the public forum (for instance, mass media) versus market forums (for instance, customers). Using examples of accountability mechanism in the Netherlands, England, Norway, Austria and Italy, it is illustrated that accountability becomes quite complex particularly if types of accountability mix and accountability narratives move from one forum to the other. It is argued that a more fine-grained analysis of accountability – stripped from the normative connotations that figure largely in the higher education literature – is promising to gain more insight in the implementation and impacts of accountability regimes in higher education.

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George D. Kuh and Natasha A. Jankowski

Documenting what students know and are able to do and using that information effectively to improve student and institutional performance are fundamental to ensuring the quality of postsecondary education. This work, known as student learning outcomes assessment, is inherently challenging, in part because the data have historically served two purposes that are seemingly at odds: accountability and improvement. This chapter summarizes efforts in the US and in other countries to obtain actionable evidence of student learning and discusses some key lessons learned for how to make such efforts more consequential and visible. First, we describe the circumstances that are currently influencing quality assurance efforts with an emphasis on recent developments in the United States. Then we highlight major quality assurance advances over the past quarter century including the work conducted by our National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). Next we discuss what policy makers, government entities and institutional leaders can do to assure that student learning outcomes assessment produces meaningful, quality, relevant data that can be used to enhance student and institutional performance while addressing accountability needs. We close with six overarching principles to make assessment work consequential.

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Robert J.W. Tijssen

An increasing number of contemporary national university systems have performance-based governance systems where universities are held accountable by public sector funding bodies and government stakeholders. These public ‘accountability regimes’ differ in terms of governance arrangements: from government-controlled regulatory systems to self-governing ‘internal’ academic practices. Nowadays such regimes may go beyond the two traditional missions of universities (education and research). This chapter sheds light on intricate relationships between accountability regimes and how universities report on their ‘academic research commercialization, entrepreneurship and innovation’ (ARCEI).After introducing a conceptual and analytical framework to assess ARCEI accountability regimes within and across national university systems, an empirical analysis of public reporting practices by university associations introduces a global overview of ARCEI-related mission statements. Moving from the domain of PR-driven ‘rhetoric’ by those university associations to the academic ‘reality’ of individual universities, further web-based information is presented on their ARCEI activities and outputs, which can be used a ‘soft indicator’ of accountability compliance. The illustrative case study deals with two European countries that are subjected to quite distinct accountability regimes: the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The results illustrate the impact of those regimes on the choice of ARCEI performance indicators. The subtle effects of world university rankings on reporting practices are also highlighted.

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David D. Dill

In recent decades the higher education systems of most developed nations have been substantially expanded and reformed with a greater policy emphasis on market competition as a means of achieving institutional coordination, improvement and efficiency. During this period, new policy instruments have been introduced as a means of assuring the quality of university performance, particularly in teaching and research. Empirical research on these instruments suggests the strengths and weaknesses of existing national policy approaches. While competition is pervasive in academic research, attempts to design regulatory policies utilizing market forces and pricing mechanisms to improve universities have had distorting effects on academic costs and quality. Current policy reforms have also stimulated university deregulation and the consequent need for greater strategic management at the institutional level. This suggests that public policies designed to enhance university-based collective actions to assure and improve the quality and cost of education and research warrant increased attention and study.

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Roger King

The advance of the quality assurance agency in higher education has appeared remorseless since the early 1990s, reinforced by the international tide of ‘new governance’ that enthused national governments and which was applied across a range of public sectors. This stressed transparency, accountability and value-for-money for taxpayer-funded expenditure. Yet today, such agencies face major challenges, including from alternative assessors and methodologies associated with consumerism, markets and rankings. Additionally, academic research has questioned ‘sanctions-based’ approaches for their ineffectiveness, while governments have queried whether bureaucratic quality monitoring is less effective than well-informed consumer choice and provider competitiveness. Some governments have sought to reduce both regulatory resources and ‘red tape’ evaluation of institutions with the purpose of releasing more entrepreneurialism and innovation in universities and colleges. Risk approaches and an associated regulatory turn in higher education are beginning to transform both quality assessment and quality assurance agencies across a number of higher education sectors.