Can quality assurance policies in higher education promote socioeconomic development? This assumption underpins government policy in the Philippines, as it does in many other countries. In the Philippines, we show the problems that have arisen in how quality has been conceptualised by government and how it has been enacted in practice. We discuss the role the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the statutory body that oversees higher education institutions, plays in higher education accountability; review the processes and mechanisms for implementing quality assurance policies; and evaluate the country’s systems of accreditation. Quantitatively, a total of 206 higher education administrators in seven recognized colleges and four universities were randomly sampled and analysed. A multiple regression coefficient was used to determine the predictor of performance in higher education. We find that the relationship between higher education policy and development is mediated by the meanings ascribed to quality and quality assurance, and the realities in which policies are implemented.