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Lis Lange and Francois Strydom

This chapter provides a reflection on two decades of quality assurance in South African higher education. It explores how the system of quality assurance was developed and implemented during the democratic transition and offers an example of the tensions and contradictions between local needs and global trends in policy making, particularly as South Africa was emerging after years of isolation. The chapter is organised in four sections, with the first section providing the intellectual and political background for conceptualisation of quality assurance. This is followed in the next section with an explanation of the policy context of quality assurance with a specific focus on the set-up period 1995–2005. In light of this background the third section describes the implementation of a quality assurance regime and the tensions that arose between the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the system. The chapter closes by sharing lessons learnt and reflecting on the implications for future quality assurance efforts.