New Modes of Shaping Social Change?
Edited by Regine Paul, Marc Mölders, Alfons Bora, Michael Huber and Peter Münte
Chapter 5: Regulating teaching quality: comparing quality regulation in English and German higher education
Academic quality was historically a problem of professional self-regulation. Since the late 1980s, higher education (HE) quality was targeted by an emerging regulatory regime while professional influence was reduced. We find that on one side the New Public Management reforms attempted to rationalize the control of quality; on the other side we observe that increased rationalization leads to either informal strategies that provide the possibility to flexibly adapt to a volatile environment, but do so by opacity and lack of control, or the emergence of strategies of reflexive (or responsive) regulation. Reflexivity may be interpreted as a more subtle form of rationalization as well as a response to the intangible HE quality (and ways of making it tangible). This paper outlines basic conceptual considerations of the main elements of reflexive regulation and how the reflexivity would vary with the dominant form of funding the HE system. The empirical section of the paper compares the English and German HE teaching quality regimes. It first outlines the basic structures of quality regulation and emerging forms of regulatory reflexivity: ‘risk-based regulation’ in England and concepts like ‘quality culture’ in Germany. It then shows that regulatory reflexivity assumes – as predicted – different patterns in these two countries. Irrespective of some common aspects we can characterize the English quality regulation by its emphasis on procedural reflexivity while the German case highlights the organizational side of reflexivity. Given its ability to capture new empirical developments in HE in a nuanced manner, the concept of regulatory reflexivity serves as a valuable contribution to the analysis of recent political reforms, not least vis-à-vis governance concepts.
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