Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Study of the Impacts of the Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education Policy in China: Students' Perceptions

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Study of the Impacts of the Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education Policy in China: Students' Perceptions

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper analyzes a higher education policy issued in China in 2002: the Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education Policy. It examines students' perceptions of the policy impacts and students' roles in the evaluation process by semi-structured interviews and questionnaire surveys. It reveals that the quality assessment in China has facilitated the improvement of teaching infrastructure and led to the intensification of school discipline in evaluated higher education institutions significantly. However, its impacts on teaching/learning are not noticeable. As an information publisher, quality assessment seems not very influential for students. Moreover, students do not think their voices have been demonstrated in the current quality assessment sufficiently, and expect their roles to be enhanced. Based on students' perceptions of the policy impacts, this study ends up with an examination of the problems with quality assessment approaches and related suggestions to improve them.

Keywords: higher education, quality assessment, policy impacts, students' perceptions, China

1. Introduction

Quality of higher education has gained prominence in China over the last decade. In 2002, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) issued the Project of Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education, on the basis of some earlier informal evaluation regulations. Higher Education Evaluation Centre of the Ministry of Education (HEEC) was also established to undertake this specific assessment. In this project, all higher education institutions should be evaluated within a period of five years on a rolling basis. The quality assessment of undergraduate education focuses on teaching quality on the institutional level. The evaluation procedures are standardized and include self-assessments, site visits of external evaluators and follow-up reforms. The evaluation criteria were set up by the MOE, containing eight major indicators and 19 sub-indicators, used for all of the evaluated institutions. The first round of evaluation was finished at the end of June 2008, with 589 higher education institutions evaluated (HEEC, 2013).

The intended impact of the Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education can be summarized based on the purposes defined in the policy discourse and the context in which the policy emerged. Firstly, the quality assemment intended to push the evaluated institutions to improve education quality by means of specifying their guiding principles on university operation, improving teaching facilities and university infrastructure, strengthening teaching management and facilitating the reforms of teaching and learning. Secondly, from the perspective of the state, it intended to reinforce the governance over higher education and push the evaluated institutions to do what the state wants them to do. Thirdly, the quality assessment scheme is also used as an information publisher, to promote the transparency and comparability of higher education institutions.

After working for one full cycle, the quality assessment policy caused lots of debates upon whether this project has realized its intended purposes. In this context, academic research is necessary to shed light on the policy consequences and impacts. The study of higher education quality assessment in China is still at the initial stage, and is dominated by the introduction of quality assessment and assurance practices in western countries. As for the Project of Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education, much of the literature discussing it appears to lack supporting evidence from field investigation, like the research in other fields of higher education studies in China (Fan & Gao, 2010). Advocacy based on researchers' observation is frequently a substitute for in-depth analysis. Moreover, a great many recommendations have been made for improving the quality assessmewnt scheme. Unfortunately, these often originate from international experience but are not rooted in the problems of the Quality Assessment of Undergraduate Education per se. …

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