The practices of evaluation for quality assurance in Greek public Universities: Knowledge recontexualisations and academic identities
The Greek state is at a turning point because of deep reforms in the organizational culture and the infrastructure of the public sector towards practices of performativity. Economic crisis and the dependency on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have operated as the catalyst for rapid, if not violent, convergence to the global standards posed to national agencies for low-cost human recourses, high productivity and accountability.
Higher Education (HE) can be recognized as one case in the Greek public sector that efficiency and practices of quality assurance have been formally instituted (Law 3374/2005) and enacted earlier than the apparent onset of changes due to the financial crisis. This is because of the dissemination of European Union policies for Higher Education, the European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process) and the operation of specialized agencies on quality assurance in HE, that is the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA, 2013).
The process of implementation has been very slow and fragmented due to controversies and resistance emanating from within the academic community and various social and political groups involved, concerning the official implementation of evaluation practices as an integral part of the operation of Greek HE Institutions (Stamelos & Kavasakalis, 2011). Recently, the pressures for broad reforms of the Greek State have greatly accelerated the implementation of quality assurance policies and have led to its generalization in all Greek H.E. Institutions. According to statistics, 47 evaluations have been completed from 2008 to 2010, 147 from 2011 to June 2013 (HQA, 2013) and 143 evaluations from September 2013 to February 2014.
The agencies for quality assurance in H.E., officially operating since 2005, in current circumstances appear more active than ever before. Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency (H.Q.A.) acts at the national level as an independent and specialized public agency supervised by the Ministry of Education for the development, the realization and the coordination of an evaluative and accreditation framework for H.E. (National Qualification Framework, Level 6-8). The processes of quality assurance at the institutional level are realized by the “Units of Quality Assurance” (MODIP) that is an administrative body based at each university and supervised by the Vice-Rectors of Academic Affairs. “Committees of Internal Evaluation” (OMEA) operate at the level of the Departments.
This multilayered structure of agents serves the idea of combining and coordinating the two strongly interrelated processes of the current quality assurance framework that is, the departments’ internal evaluations and their external evaluations by committees of experts from foreign universities. Results are presented through internal and external evaluation reports, respectively. These documents are publicly displayed and constitute powerful representations of departments’ identities. They concern their teaching and research practices, achievements and future strategic goals as knowledge institutions, having to operate and being successful in highly competitive global environments (Robertson & Dale, 2008, Seddon & Levin, 2013).
I argue that policies and processes of evaluation and quality assurance, as enacted today in the Greek H.E. sector, constitute a direct intervention of the regulative policy discourse into the pedagogic discourse of the institutions, pressing for the reconstruction of academic practices and identities (Bernstein, 2000, Sarakinioti et al., 2011, Garcia et al., 2013). Evaluation rules appear to dominate the discourse, reconstituting the boundaries in the processes of the production, recontexualisation and distribution of knowledge at the University sector. The analysis seeks to reveal the conditions of knowledge and the forms of power relations in the operation of agents involved (academics, students, external evaluation committees) as they are articulated in the internal and external evaluation practices implemented in the H.E. sector (Foucault, 1980, Singh, 2012).
The methodology for data production is based on textual/ discourse analysis (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). The official documents of my analysis are the internal and external evaluation reports that have being produced and published through the quality assurance programme of HQA, implemented for the first time in Greek Universities.
In my methodological perspective the contents of the internal evaluation reports and their interrelationships with the external evaluations reports constitute the official representations of the dominant evaluative rules in each university department and are illustrations of the knowledge recontexualistion practices that are considered valid. Discourse analysis reveals the articulations between knowledge and evaluation rules and discusses their meanings for departments’ identities and their academic prospects. I have analyzed the internal and external evaluation reports of 15 departments based on 3 Greek Universities. According to our sampling criteria, these selected universities represent the diversity of Greek HE sector. The first university is one of the oldest institutions in the country, enjoying high reputation; the second is a modern but well established university, while the third is a new but very active regional institution.
Concerning the selection of the university departments for the analysis, the common criterion has been the fact that they all offer programmes that qualify individuals for a career in preschool, primary or secondary education. The analysis focuses on departments of Primary Education (3), Pre-school education (3), Mathematics (3), Physics or Geography (3), Philology or Social Anthropology and History (3).
What is interesting for the analysis and important for the research results is the fact that the selected departments, despite offering programmes for teacher training, are all very different in their history, academic status, approaches to knowledge production and recontexualisation, professional careers for graduates, etc. All these factors have been revealed as crucial conditions for understanding the evaluation practices and for illustrating the departments’ current positions in the discourse.
The outcomes of the analysis help to broaden and deepen the understanding of modern developments in the Greek system and the higher education sector, highlighting the diverse and dynamic responses of departments with varying specializations and academic traditions to the transformative processes of European quality assurance policies. It is worth noting that internal and external evaluation processes are taking place against the backcloth of the development of the National Qualifications Framework and the implementation of a knowledge accreditation system, the latter announced as the next governmental move.
Approaching these developments as part of the European and global policies on (higher) education, the present study has produced data for the Greek case in a “moment” that appears to be a turning point for the academic practices and the identities of Greek Universities. The analysis records the "history" of the Greek university in the present. Following the international literature on the analysis of contemporary forms of governance in education and the role of knowledge in these (Bernstein, 2000, Ozga, 2012, Seddon & Levin, 2013), it reveals and documents how the dominance of evaluation and comparative performance technologies become strong regulative means in recontexualisation processes in H.E. They bring new players in the field of HE, produce (re)definitions of valid knowledge and impel academics and students to reconstruct their identities according to prescribed modes of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity. Theory, research, critique. Revised edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Chouliaraki, L. & Fairclough, N. (1999). Discourse in late modernity: Rethinking critical discourse analysis. Edinburgh University Press.
ΕΝQA (2013). ENQA Work Plan 2013.
Garcia, O., De Leon, P., Hernandez, V. M., Abascal, M.L.Z., Tamayo, M.F.A. & Levin, J. (2013). State Interventions for University restructuring: The Construction of Academic Practice and Identity in Public State Universities in Mexico. In T. Seddon & J. Levin, (eds) (2013) World Yearbook of Education. Educators, Professionalism and Politics: Global Transitions, National Spaces and Professional Projects (pp. 133-171). London: Routledge.
Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge. Selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977 by Michel Foucault. C. Gordon (ed.), C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham & K. Soper (Trans.). New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
HQA (2013). Annual report of Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency 2012-2013 (in Greek).
Law 3374/2005 «Quality Assurance in Higher Education. European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System - Diploma Supplement». Official Gazette 189, Vol. Α΄, 02.08.2005.
Sarakinioti, A., Tsatsaroni, A. & Stamelos, G. (2011). Changing knowledge in Higher Education. In G. Ivinson, B. Davies & J. Fitz (Eds.), Knowledge and Identity: Concepts and application in Bernstein's sociology (pp. 69-89). London: Routledge.
Seddon, T. & Levin, J. (eds) (2013) World Yearbook of Education. Educators, Professionalism and Politics: Global Transitions, National Spaces and Professional Projects, London: Routledge.
Singh, P.,Thomas, S. & Harris, J. (2012). Recontextualising policy discourses: a Bernsteinian perspective on policy interpretation, translation, enactment. Journal of Education Policy, 28 (4): 465-480.
Stamelos G., & Kavasakalis A., (2011), The public debate on a quality assurance system for Greek universities, Quality in Higher Education, 17:3, 353-368.
Robertson S. & Dale, R. (2008). Researching Education in a Globalising Era. In J. Resnik (ed.), The Production of Educational Knowledge in the Global Era (pp. 19-32). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.