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E DUCATION P OLICY A NALYSIS A RCHIVES A peer reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the Education Policy Ana lysis Archives EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles are indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals ( Volume 12 Number 71 December 22 2004 ISSN 1068 2341 Autonomy vs. Control : Quality A ssurance and G overnmental P olicy in Flanders Kurt De Wit Jef C. Verhoeven Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Cita tion: De Wit, K. & Verhoeven, J. C. (2004, December 22). Autonomy vs. c ontrol: Quality a ssurance and g overnmental p olicy in Flanders Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12 (71). Retrieved [date] from A bstract Higher educ ation in Flanders has seen some major changes in the 1990s. One of the key elements of the ne w higher education regulations was the quality ass essment system. This exemplified best the government's policy of granting all institutions of higher education au tonomy, making them responsible for their policies, while still keeping the quality of higher education somewhat under governmental control. In this article, we focus on the tension between the government's aim of improving and controlling the quality of h igher education and universities concern for their autonomy. We describe the Flemish government's view on issues of quality in higher education and confront these with an account on the basis of case studies of how the quality assurance system was actuall y implemented in universities We conclude that the model of the market state or the evaluative state is only realised partially in Flanders. The government is still interventionist when it comes to key policy issues. Introduction Higher education i n Belgium went through some major changes in the 1990s As a result of the constitutional reform of 1988 the Dutch speaking and the French speaking higher education systems were separated. In other words, whereas formerly a national, Belgian education pol icy was pursued (albeit by two ministers, a French speaking minister and a Dutch speaking minister), now the government of the Dutch speaking community in Belgium (that is, Flanders) and that of the French speaking community (that is, Wallonia) each could


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 2 develop their own higher education policy. The Flemish government on which we focus in this article, wanted to do different and better . This led to a new higher education legislation in 1991 and to a policy based on the principles of deregulation, auton omy, and accountability. One of the key elements of the new higher education regulations wa s the quality ass essment system. This exemplified best the Flemish government's policy of granting all institutions of higher education autonomy, making them respons ible for their policies, while still keeping the quality of higher education somewhat under governmental control. But h ow did the universities interpret the government's ideas about quality assurance, and how did they negotiate between their own wishes an d the government's demands? The main focus of this article is the tension between the new policy goals and instruments of the government, aimed at controlled autonomy for the universities, and the actual implementation of the quality assurance system in the universities We studied governmental higher education policies and programmes over a period of about 30 years and carried out case studies of universities at the time they were implementing the quality assurance policy (the second half of the 1990s) 1 With document analysis and interviews with key actors, we were able to establish a detailed picture of different aspects of the interplay between the government and the institutions of higher education (see also Van Heffen, Verhoeven, & De Wit, 1999). In this article, we will first give an overview of past developments and policies in higher education and indicate their relevance for our understanding of the introduction of the quality assurance system in the 1990s. Next, we describe the Flemish government 's view on issues of quality in higher education and point at a shift in the model of state control. Third, we take a closer look at the quality assurance system in Flanders as it was articulated in the governmental regulation. We then turn to the quality assurance system as it was actually implemented in the universities. This will allow us to draw conclusions in the fifth section about the tension between the government's aim of improving and controlling the quality of higher education and universities' c oncern for their autonomy. Constraints from t he Past The introduction of a quality assurance system in Flemish higher education cannot be fully understood without taking constraints from the past into account. Therefore, we first consider some elements in the history of higher education in Flanders that influenced the situation in the 1990s. In the 1970s and 1980s, two developments turned political attention away from higher education, the result being what might be termed a period of non politics rega rding higher education. First, the unitary Belgian state was gradually transformed into a federal state composed of three Communities and three Regions. Second, the economic crises that followed the oil crises made savings and cutbacks a priority in all po licy domains. In the 1980s, the retrenchment policy also reached the higher education sector, so funding was cut back and little room was left for anything other than financial policy matters. In this period of non politics, governmental steering of higher education took on different forms for different kinds of higher education institutions. The Belgian higher education system could be described as a double binary system. A first divide was one between universities and colleges of higher education. A sec ond divide existed between state institutions (financed and governed by the state) and so called free often denominational institutions (also financed by the state, but largely autonomous in their governance). The four categories of institutions that th us existed (see Table 1), each had a different relationship with 1 This research was carried out within the framework of the project "Governmental policies and programme s for strengthening the relationship between higher education institutions and the national economy (HEINE)", an EU funded TSER programme (SOE CT97 2018).


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 3 the Belgian government. Table 1 Higher Education Institutions in Belgium P rior to the 1990s State Institutions Non State Institutions University Sector State University Free University Non University Sector State College Free College If we restrict ourselves to the universities, the following differences existed. The state universities were steered in a very centralist way. They were directly under the responsibility of the Minister of Education, who was the organising authority of state education. Therefore, these universities were influenced directly by the features of the political system of the time, which was unstable due to linguistic troubles 2 and financially restricted becaus e of the increasing public debt. The free universities, that is, universities established on religious or philosophical grounds, were relatively autonomous. A ccording to Verhoeven (1982 ), this was because university education was always seen as necessari ly autonomous and organised by private initiative and because interventions could trigger irreconcilable conflicts. The government was reluctant to regulate in order not to upset the delicate ideological and linguistic equilibrium in the university sector. When Belgium became a federal state, in Flanders the view took hold that Flanders could do it differently and better. The Flemish government wanted to treat all institutions on a more equal basis. In the process of constitutional reform, the Communities became virtually autonomous in a number of fields, including education. This provided the Flemish Community with the opportunity to reform thoroughly all sectors of education. Several decrees were issued, with autonomy, responsibility, and scaling up bein g the leading ideas. With the Decree on Universities of 1991, the government took an important step towards achieving far reaching autonomy for all universities. The decrees imposed only formal requirements (length of the course, division in cycles, abilit y to abridge the course duration, and so on); the content of education (the course programme) could be decided by the institutions themselves. The new legislation made the former state universities autonomous and gave them almost th e same responsibilities as the free universities. The higher education rules as a whole (including college education) became more integrated. Governmental Views on the Quality o f Higher Education The State Steering Model The new legislation of the 1990s meant a radical brea k with the (Belgian) past, at least in the way the policy was conceived. However, it is well known from the literature that higher education tends to be conservative when it comes to major changes (see for example Kerr, 1982, van Vught, 1987, Salter & Tapp er, 1994, Maassen & Gornitzka, 1999). Although innovation takes place constantly in a higher education institution, it is difficult to spread these innovations throughout the institution and even more to change the institution as a whole. Moreover, several authors have pointed out the resistance that universities develop against government interference with quality assurance (see for instance El Khawas, 1998, Bauer & Henkel, 1999, Dill, 2003). 2 Belgium has three language groups: Dutch speaking (57.5%), French speaking (32.4%), and German spea king (0.7%); and a bilingual region: Brussels (9.3%).


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 4 Nevertheless, the chances of a successful implementation of chan ges through governmental policy also depend on the steering capacity of the government. Many conceptions of changes in this steering capacity have been developed, with amongst the most salient the shift from the interventionary state to the facilitator y state (Neave, & Van Vught, 1991), the trend towards steering at a distance (Goedegebuure et al. 1994), and the rise of the evaluative state (Neave, 1998). The new public management is considered to be at odds with the collegial governance that is typical of the higher education institution, especially the university (Amaral, Fulton, & Larsen, 2003). Given the complexity of the Flemish situation, it is useful to use not a dichotomy (as in for instance the facilitatory state vs. the interventionist state), but a grid of four state models, as offered by Olsen (1988). Olsen distinguishes between the sovereign state, the institutional state, the segmented state, and the market state. In the model of the sovereign state, higher education is viewed as an instrument to achieve economic or social goals. This role is then best achieved through strict control by the political authorities. In the model of the institutional state the government takes a detached stance, allowing institutions of higher education to uphold academic values and traditions independently of short term political circumstances. In the segmented state the government is not a unitary actor monopolising power and control but an aggregate of competitive, legitimate centres of authority. Fin ally, the market state model implies a minimum role of the state, with policy being the result of bilateral agreements between governmental actors and social actors. Quality as t he Main Issue The market state model has been on the rise in the whole of We stern Europe. Since the 1980s, politics in Western Europe has been marked by the rise of neo conservatism (Brown, et al., 1996) together with the rise of a kind of neo liberalism. While individual freedom and a free market are promoted, a strong state is s till demanded to guarantee the moral and political order. In education, this ideology shows in the autonomy and responsibility granted to educational institutions. In this view, flexibility and institutionalised competition combined with quality control should lead to an educational supply that meets the needs of the educational and the labour market. Moreover, the notion of accountability is central. Education has to account for its efficiency and effectiveness. For higher education, this means providing more directly applicable knowledge. The traditional political parties and ideologies, conservatives, Christian Democrats, as well as the leftist parties, can easily come to a consensus about the necessity of neo liberal educational accountability and appr ove of essential features of this new way of policy making (compare Husen, Tuijnman, & Halls, 1992). In Flanders, too, this new policy ideology has become an essential component of education policy. Many policy documents of the 1990s reflected this semi ne utral management ideology to a considerable extent. This does not mean that old values like democratisation and accessibility were completely absent, but they seem to have become of secondary importance. With the constitutional reform of 1988, a shift oc curred in the normative conception of the government regarding higher education. While Belgian higher education policy could be described as an amalgam of Christian Democratic, classical Liberal, and Social Democrat values, the Flemish government's normati ve background developed into a more homogenous neo liberal value system (or, in Olsen's terms, a market state model). Within this market state rhetoric, the quality of higher education was a central issue for the Flemish government. It assigned priority to a qualitative extension of the educational system in Flanders. If the educational supply must be able to meet the changing needs of our society, so it stated, a real autonomy in policy making for educational institutions has to be made possible. From then on, quality management became a constant factor in Flemish


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 5 education policy. In other words, from 1989 onwards, the policy of the Flemish government has been focused on applying the concepts of quality, autonomy, and deregulation to the higher education s ector. By abandoning detailed central regulation and opting instead for a policy confined to creating the right conditions for maximising the policy space on the local institutional level, the Flemish government wanted to increase the quality of higher edu cation. The content of this quality was not clearly stated. But increasing international competition was often mentioned along with the need for universities to be strong enough to meet in this competition. However, for the government this did not mean t hat the specific role of higher education (offering education at a high level) should be dilut ed. The Flemish government didn 't want the content of education to be dependant on the volatile demands of students and employers. It is not wrong for universiti es to establish new courses or change the content of existing programmes to meet changing demands, so it argued, but they have to remember that they must always offer high quality education. The Minister of Education spoke of a new policy philosophy, a ph ilosophy that rests on a totally new relationship between the government and education, whereby the government sets out the beacons of the policy, provides means for the realisations of this policy (envelope financing), and grants the widest possible freed om to education for this realisation. (Vlaamse Raad, 1993 94). As far as the funding was concerned, the Flemish government considered the basic financing of higher education as a task for the government. It strongly believed in the necessity to pay for th e normal functioning of higher education with public funds, and in the incidental nature of private financing, so that higher education would be able to fulfil its essential tasks independent of private funding. The major part of the funding of universitie s in Flanders consisted of governmental grants, and this remained to be the case, even up to the present day, although the third party funding of some institutions is growing. As a counterpart, the universities needed to be made accountable for the fundin g they received from the government. The Flemish government aimed at affordable quality and demanded institutions to make adequate use of the money they got from the government because the government had to take its budgetary capabilities into account. T he optimum use of funds was a constant preoccupation of the Flemish government in the 1990s. Therefore, a new financing system was introduced in the higher education sector. The new system of envelope financing made it possible to control the funding, at l east from the government's point of view. Related Problems In the context of the quality of higher education, the Flemish government focused on a number of problems other than quality assurance as such. First, there was the problem of low pass rates. Fre e access to higher education and freedom of choice remained important principles governing the Flemish higher education system. The other side of the coin was the high number of students who failed to complete higher education. Only 47% of the freshmen eve ntually graduated from a university (Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, 1999, 193). For this reason, the government included an article in the Decree 3 on Universities of 1991 that required that 5% of all academic staff had to provide specific education al guidance to first year students. Basically, however, the institutions themselves (and secondary education schools) were responsible for optimising their efforts to increase the pass rates of their students. The 3 Belgium consists of three Communities (the Flemish, the French, and the German speaking Community) and three Regions (the Flemish, the Walloon, and the Brussels Region) each with their own governments and parliaments. When a bill is passed by a parliament of the Communities or the Regions, it is called a decree.


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 6 policy letter of Minister of Education Van derpoorten (2000) also reflected the preoccupation with the maintenance of existing guidance systems for first year students, course selection counselling in secondary education, and the easing of the transition from secondary to higher education. Other pr oblems pointed out by the Flemish government concerned the rationality of the course supply in higher education. The Flemish government wanted to improve the transparency of the university course supply 4 The opacity of the university course supply made it difficult for potential employers to evaluate the particular knowledge and skills of graduates. The relative value of courses and diplomas was not always clear. Next to this, the lack of transparency could cause problems for students trying to choose a fi eld of study. More generally, the lack of transparency resulted in inadequate linkage between higher education courses and the labour market (Van Heffen & Huisman, 1998). Instead, universities had to strive to become centres of excellence in both education and research. As a consequence, the universities were expected not to maintain qualitatively inferior courses. However, other than the obligation to establish a quality assurance system, which we will discuss below, no direct policy instrument to achieve this goal was formulated. Here the Flemish government seemed to be trying primarily to manage by speech a technique it often used for higher education. The Flemish government conferred with the vice chancellors of the universities and even assigned a s pecial government commissioner to arrive at a more rational and well balanced supply of courses. But again, although several official reports were issued, no results were achieved. When a new Minister of Education took office following the elections of 199 9, the government commissioner was dismissed and the reports were classified vertically. A problem implicitly stated in the context of the erosion of knowledge and rapidly changing knowledge was the structure of lifelong learning. This was seen as one of t he great challenges of the coming decades (Van Den Bossche, 1995, 8). Here, too, the government seemed in favour of giving as much autonomy to the institutions as possible so they would be able to adapt their supply dynamically to the rising demand (Minist erie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, 1996). The System of Quality Assessment Granting autonomy and responsibility to all institutions of higher education was the most important instrument for the Flemish government for guaranteeing the quality of higher edu cation in an international context. This was based on the view that autonomous institutions will develop modern, dynamic, and professional management, and therefore will be more able to adapt dynamically to changing demand and European initiatives. To ver ify the effects of autonomy on the quality of education, the Flemish government imposed the development of a quality assurance system. The new legislation of 1991 5 brought the regulations regarding the entire university sector into one coherent framework. This legislation obliged all Flemish universities to develop a system of quality assurance. More specifically, it stated that each university had to provide both internal and external quality assurance, meaning that it must: v monitor the quality of its educ ation and research activities on a continual basis; 4 With 'course' we refer to an entire study programme (four, five, or more years). For each institution of higher education, the legislation d efines which courses it may offer (without, however, defining the content of these courses). 5 In particular, the Decrees of 12 June 1991 and 26 June 1991, as amended by the Decree of 18 May 1999.


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 7 v set up a system of regular evaluations (at least every 8 years) with other universities in Flanders and abroad (these evaluations have to be made public); v take account of the results of the evaluations in its policy (and report on this in its annual report for the Flemish government). The role of the government was defined as monitoring and controlling the quality assessment system by examining the quality assurance program set up by the universities, by appointing a commission to do comparative research on the quality of the education activities in a particular course or courses, and by monitoring the way in which universities take account of the evaluations in their policies. If the quality of a course t urned out to be enduringly unsatisfactory, the government could either stop subsidising the university in question for the students in that course or it could withdraw the right of the university to grant an academic degree for that course. A meta evaluati on by the government took place in 1997 when the Minister of Education appointed an independent commission of experts. This international audit commission had to verify whether the universities had complied with the quality assurance obligations as defined by the Universities Decree of 1991. On the basis of its research and its visits to the universities, the audit commission concluded (Auditcommissie, 1998) that this was indeed the case, notwithstanding the different ways of taking care of quality assuranc e in each university and despite a number of areas that the commission found could be improved (see below for examples). Quality Assessment in Flemish Universities We have concentrated hitherto on the quality assurance system in Flanders as it was concei ved by the Flemish government. In this section, we turn to the universities themselves. On the basis of case studies of two universities in Flanders, we will describe how a quality assurance system actually was established. But first, and more generally, w e must point out the role of the body representing the universities, the Flemish Interuniversity Council. The Flemish Interuniversity Council ( Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad ) was established in 1976 to promote consultation and co operation between the uni versities and to be an advisory body towards the ministers of Education and Science Policy in university matters. The Flemish Interuniversity Council is composed of the vice chancellors of all the Flemish universities and a supplementary member from the tw o large universities. In a number of matters, the Decree on Universities of 12 June 1991 has made the advice of the Flemish Interuniversity Council mandatory. Even before the Universities Decree of 1991 was passed, the universities conferred within the Fle mish Interuniversity Council about how to establish a quality assurance system. Agreement was reached with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) to implement the Dutch review system in Flanders, in mutual cooperation. The first review w as carried out in 1990, and, since 1991, all reviews were based on this cooperation between the Flemish Interuniversity Council and the Dutch VSNU. The review system consisted of elements of both internal and external quality assurance. A review took a cou rse or group of related courses (both academic and advanced academic courses) as its point of departure and was carried out in all the universities offering that particular course or group of courses. The review process started with a self evaluation. Each of the relevant study fields at each university had to write a self study, reporting the results of a critical self analysis by all groups associated with the course (professors, assistants, and students). On the basis of this self study, a review committ ee, consisting of experts who are not employed by any of the faculties concerned, had to determine if a course achieves the objectives set at the outset. For this task, it could use the self study carried out by the specific


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 8 faculty, recent evaluation repo rts, student surveys, courses, text books, visits to the faculties, discussions with interested parties, and so on. The committee then drafted a course report designed to enable each faculty to keep on improving its quality. The faculties had the opportuni ty to comment on the report. Once all the faculties in a particular field of study had been examined, a general report was produced in which various aspects of the education provided by the institution were placed in a comparative perspective. The final re port, comprising a general section and the course reports, was also intended to inform the Flemish Community about the status of education in the specific field of study. Case Studies o f Quality Assurance Systems How was a quality assurance system actual ly established? To what extent did the universities follow the procedure as agreed in the Flemish Interuniversity Council, and did they add specifications to that procedure? For two universities, we will describe some general characteristics, the policies and initiatives of the central governance level of the institution with regard to both internal and external quality assurance, and, where appropriate, developments at the decentral levels of the institutions. The time frame in each case study is what we c alled above the decade of reform that is, the 1990s. Institution A is a former state university that became autonomous as a result of the university decrees of 1991. It is among the largest in Flanders, both in student numbers and in number of facultie s (number of courses offered). University A has developed a decentralised organisation model The faculties have a large degree of autonomy. The central level's role is to support the faculties and to take guiding initiatives. The quality control structure too is decentrallized, which is reflected in the important role of bodies at the faculty level in the quality assurance structure. First, in each faculty and for each course or coherent set of courses, there is an education committee. The education commit tee is responsible for the curriculum of that particular course or courses and also the continuous optimisation of quality. Since the start of the academic year 1998 1999, each faculty also has one or more education quality cells. These cells have to suppo rt the education committees regarding the quality of education (especially the quality of the content of education and the instructional material). However, the university board does not specify the duties of the quality cells. In addition to these bodies responsible for quality assurance University A participates (since 1991) in the system of reviews for both internal and external quality assurance. The procedure is as follows. To prepare the reviews, a self study has to be drafted. At least one year after the final report of the review, a follow up report has to be presented to the university board (a form of control by the board that indicates the significance attached to quality control, as is also shown in the establishment of the quality cells), addres sing the results of an internal critical discussion of the review report, the possible and desirable short and long term remedies, and the implementation plan for these remedies. Every two years, the quality assurance system (and particularly the follow u p of the reviews) is discussed by a special meeting of the university board. Overall, the confrontation with the review commission and the review report are seen as useful and informative. This situation of decentral ized autonomy but central interventions led the international audit commission (Auditcommissie, 1998) to the conclusion that "There is a certain degree of imbalance at University A between the competence of steering the policy content and the actual structures that have to implement that policy. The actual distribution of authority between the central and the decentralised bodies is not clear for the audit commission, notwithstanding the detailed documentation and her visit to the university. This concerns not only who does what but also how cert ain tasks are executed (intervention strategies)."


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 9 The decentralised model of organisation of Institution A implies that faculties assure quality differently. We confine our analysis to the faculties of Engineering and Economics, because they differ regard ing the functioning of the quality cells and the evaluation of the review system. In the Faculty of Engineering, the quality cell is placed in the decision making structure between the education committees and the university board. Its task is to guarantee the uniformity of the courses of the faculty, while respecting the autonomy of the education committees in this respect. Unlike the other faculties that established this structure in the academic year of 1998 1999, this structure was not new in the Facult y of Engineering. Comparable committees had already been in operation for several years in this faculty and have served as an example for the current structure in all the other faculties. The reviews are regarded positively by the Faculty of Engineering. Not so much the actual visit (which is too short to make a thorough evaluation possible) but the drafting of the self study report is seen as the most important moment in the review process. The Faculty of Economics established two quality cells, one for economics, and one for applied economics. The quality cells evaluate education and do general preparatory work for the education committees regarding the educational policy of the faculty. They have, for example, drawn up a code of good practice for the gu idance of thesis students and attainment targets for the faculty's education programme. In the Faculty of Economics, important changes in education took place as a result of the reviews. It is clearly stated that, without the obligation to draft a self st udy report, one would never have turned to such a general analysis of the educational activity of the faculty involving re writing the goals, reforming the curricula, introducing more active educational methods, training of teachers, strengthening the rela tionship with the alumni, and so on. Finally, governmental influence is also reported as a result of the work of the special commissioner for the optimisation of university education. Some faculties included the proposals of the commissioner in the reform discussions. In the Faculty of Economics, for example, more specialised postgraduate courses were developed. Institution B is a large non state university. It is comparable to institution A in both number of faculties and number of students. The univers ity management views the university as a professional organisation with the academic staff as the core of the organisation. This implies that it refrains from direct actions or interventions on the lower levels. The university management sets out the gener al policy lines but recognises the faculties as responsible organising entities. The same pattern emerges with regard to quality assurance. The university management provides a general framework to situate the work of the education committees (see below) a nd facilitates, supports, and stimulates. Central financial incentives with faculty matching are used as a lever for educational improvement and innovation. The core of the internal quality assessment system of University B are the education committees. Ea ch faculty establishes an education committee for each course or for a set of related courses. An education committee consists of professors, assistants, students, and possibly alumni. The educational committee serves as the main body for developing curric ula and evaluating educational practices. It establishes an educational frame of reference, that indicates the goals and attainment targets and the means to achieve them. It evaluates these programmes, the didactic methods, and the examination system. They are thus the anchor points for the development of the content and organisation of the courses and the development of an educational concept. Nevertheless, the faculty councils are finally responsible for education, the education committees being only advi sory bodies. The education committees are responsible for the daily quality of education


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 10 practices. In addition to them, the quality of a course is examined systematically each four or five years by an evaluation commission, i.e. a temporary body consist ing of professors, assistants, and students. In effect, the evaluation commission drafts a self study report, including a strengths and weaknesses analysis, as a preparation for an external review In general, as in Institution A, the external reviews are viewed positively. They provide useful suggestions for improvement of the curricula, the teaching methods, and the structures and conditions necessary for optimising educational quality. Nevertheless, for Institution B, the external evaluation is less impo rtant than the internal quality assurance. It aims at developing a strong and continuous quality cycle (the audit commission, however, remarked that this continuity is not fully achieved). Therefore, in between two external reviews, which take place every eight years, another internal self evaluation takes place. At the latest one year after the review, a follow up report has to be drafted by the evaluation commission. This report has to indicate concrete remedies for the remarks of the evaluation commissio n and the weaknesses that showed up in the self study. The follow up report is discussed by those responsible in the faculty and the university management and is then submitted to the university management council. The review system in University B has th ree further characteristics. First, an education office provides educational theoretical guidance and practical support of the educational evaluations. Second, the state of affairs of the internal quality assurance is discussed every year by the education council of the university. Third, the different phases of the internal evaluation process and the rules regarding content and procedures are defined in a manual. At the lower levels of Institution B, internal quality assurance is carried out in the way des igned by the university management. The faculties (we researched the faculties of Engineering, Economics, Law, and Pharmacy) and the education committees within the faculties accept responsibility for quality assurance. They resent strong interference of t he university management and report that there is little such interference. In fact, they even mentioned a further decentralisation tendency in that important meetings and discussions often take place outside and preceding the formal structure. The educati on committee then serves only as a way to make decisions official. The description of these two cases allows us to compare the developments within these universities to the Flemish government's views and policies concerning quality assurance in the Flemish higher education system. Quality Assurance in Flanders: Unequal Governmental Control The normative conception of the Flemish government on the quality of higher education clearly was based on a neo liberal, neo conservative value system. From this, it a rgued in favour of far reaching autonomy for the universities but financed primarily by the government and obliged to account for their use of the funds received. Bearing responsibility consisted of, among other things, taking care of quality, in particula r establishing structures for carrying out quality assurance systematically. However, it took ten years to implement this policy in higher education. Autonomy and responsibility were key words in the government's policy right from the moment the Flemish Co mmunity acquired the authority over education (January 1, 1989). The rules laying down a similar quality assurance policy for all institutions of higher education in Flanders were only completed with the Decree on Education X of May 18, 1999. How can we ex plain this time gap? In the history of higher education in Flanders, the distinction between state institutions and non state ( free ) institutions has been of particular importance, with the former having less autonomy than the latter. In other words, the Belgian governmental steering mechanisms have always varied. The Flemish government had to take this into


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 11 account and could only gradually overcome this historical distinction. In 1991 the differences between state and non state universities were for a la rge part undone leading to a difficult search for a new balance of power within the former state institutions, as we have seen in Institution A. The consequence of this differential governmental steering policy for quality assurance is the unequal posit ion of the institutions with regard to the establishment of a quality assurance system at the end of our period of study. In the two cases a different system of quality assurance had been set up, at different paces, and with different motives. Both Univers ity A and University B took part in the review system and saw this as an important impulse for internal quality assurance. Since 1991 (the year of the university decree), both had systematised quality assurance, but not in the same way. University A worked with education committees and has also established quality cells. University B had strengthened the quality tasks of its previously established education committees and used a system of temporary evaluation commissions. Both institutions had a decentralis ed organisation model, and, especially in University A, this led to differences in the way the quality assurance system functioned in the faculties. The State Model in Flanders: Autonomy Vs. Control In conclusion, we may consider the trends and policies with regard to quality assurance in higher education in Flanders from the perspective outlined above. Does Flanders follow the trend towards an evaluative facilitatory state that steers at a distance? And how do the institutions of higher education with their different histories and backgrounds, respond to the new policy? Taking these models of governmental steering as a point of reference, three conclusions can be drawn for the situation in Flanders. First, the government's normative view and stee ring model has clearly shifted after the constitutional reform of 1988. Whereas different models applied in Belgium, with elements of the sovereign, the segmented, and the institutional state applying to a different extent for each sector of higher educati on (Van Heffen, et al., 1999), the Flemish government from 1989 onwards avowed its belief in the market state model and this regardless of the political affiliation of the Minister of Education (since 1989, Flanders successively had a Christian Democrat, a Social Democrat, and a Liberal 6 Minister of Education). Regarding quality assurance, this resulted in a vast number of policy documents stressing the need for institutions of higher education that can and must develop the quality of their education in a n international, competitive environment independently of the government. In this, Flanders follows a Western European trend: "[t]he politics of governance in higher education are now embedded in a discourse which assumes the external regulation of academi c activity to be the natural and acceptable state of affairs." ( Salter & Tapper 2000, 82) Second, the market state model also seems to apply to the higher education policy of the Flemish government in the 1990s. Attempts we re made to create a coherent an d similar framework of rules for all institutions of higher education, with autonomy and responsibility as the leading ideas. Here the political background of the minister played a more important role witness, for example, the cancellation of the assignm ent of the commissioner for the optimisation of higher education. Nevertheless, governmental policy consistently imposed a quality assurance system on the universities and evaluated the systems set up by the institutions. This evaluation took the form of, among other things, an international audit commission for university education that compared the quality assurance structures of the different universities and the obligation for all institutions of higher education to report 6 The 'liberal and democrat' party in Flanders is a right w ing party that supports free enterprise in the economic sphere.


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 12 annually on their efforts and achievements concerning the quality of their education. The institutions became responsible for quality assurance, had to account publicly for it, and could therefore, be more easily scrutinised by their clients in function of educational quality. The e valuation and control by the government point to the related, but contrasting, third conclusi on that the market state model wa s only realised partially in Flanders. The Flemish government undoubtedly enlarged the scope for autonomous decision making by the institutions of higher education. It withdr e w from direct control. But, indi rectly, the government still retained considerable influence. It compelled the universities to establish a fully fledged quality assurance system. This was related to its aim of i ncreasing the transparency of the course supply and the obligation for the institutions to report annually about quality measures relat ed to the reviews. Thus, the government brought about important changes in that t he quality assurance initiatives alread y present in universities were expanded and systematised. T he Flemish case thus points out that a large, government induced reform can be effective, even when it has to accommodate a complex system with a variation in higher education institutions that are renowned for their resistance against government interference The changes induced were not the result of a minimal role taken by the government but by clear interventions on key issues This means that, a lthough the model of the market state has becom e more important in Flanders it is still more a policy theory or even ideology than a fully realised, policy making principle and practice References Amaral, A., Fulton, O., & Larsen, I. (2003). A Managerial Revolution? In A. Amaral, V. Lynn Meek & I. M. Larsen (eds.), The Higher Education Managerial Revolution? (pp. 275 296). Dordrecht / Boston / London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Auditcommissie Kwaliteitszorg in het Academisch Onderwijs in Vlaanderen (1998) Aandacht voor kwaliteit in de Vlaamse uni versiteiten Brussels: Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Departement Onderwijs. Bauer M., & Henkel M. (1999). Academic Responses to Quality Reforms in Higher Education. In M. Henkel, & B. Little (eds.), Changing Relationships Between Higher Educati on and the State (pp. 236 262). London / Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Brown, Ph., Halsey, A.H., Lauder, H., & Wells A.S. ( 1996) The transformation of educati on and society: an introduction. I n A.H. Halsey, H. Lauder, Ph. Brown, & A.S. Well s (eds.) Education. Culture, economy, and society (pp. 1 44) Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dill D. (2003). An Institutional Perspective on Higher Education Policy: The Case of Academic Quality Assurance. In J.C. Smart (ed.), Higher Education: Handbo ok of Theory and Research Volume XVIII (pp. 69 699) Dordrecht / Boston / London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. El Khawas E. (1998). Strong State Action but Limited Results: perspectives on university resistance. European Journal of Education, 33 (3), 317 3 30. Goedegebuure, L.C.J., Kaiser, F., Maassen, P.A.M. Meek, V.L., Van Vught, F.A., & De Weert, E. (1994). Higher Education Policy. An international comparative perspective Oxford: Pergamon Press.


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 13 Husn, T Tuijnman A., & Halls V.D. (1992) Schooling in Modern European Society Oxford: Pergamon Press. Kerr, C. (1982). The Uses of the University Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press. Maassen, P.A.M., & Gornitzka, A. (1999). Integrating two theoretical perspectives on organisation adaptation. In B. Jongbloed, P. Maassen & G. Neave (eds.), From the Eye of the Storm. Higher Education's Changing Institution (pp. 295 316). Dordrecht / Boston / London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap (1999) Vlaamse onderwijsindicato ren in internationaal perspectief Brussels: Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap (1996) Onderwijontwikkelingen in Vlaanderen 1994 1996. Brussels: Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Departement Onderwijs. Neav e, G. (1998). The evaluative state reconsidered. European Journal of Education 33 (3), 265 284. Neave, G., & Van Vught, F.A. (1991). Prometheus Bound. The changing relationship between government and higher education in Western Europe Oxford: Pergamon Pr ess. Olsen, J.P. (1988). Administrative Reform and Theories of Organization. In: C. Campbell, B.G. Peters (eds.), Organizing Governance, Governing Organizations (pp. 233 254). Pittsburgh: University of Pits s burgh Press. Salter, B., & Tapper, T. ( 2000). T he Politics of Governance in Higher Education: the Case of Quality Assurance. Political Studies, 48 66 87. Salter, B., & Tapper, T. (1994). The State and Higher Education Ilford (Essex): The Woburn Press. Van Den Bossche, L. (1995) Beleidsbrief 1995: School maken in Vlaanderen Brussels: Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. Vanderpoorten, M. (2000) Beleidsnota: Onderwijs en Vorming Brussels: Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. van Heffen, O., & Huisman J. (1998 May ) Een transparant opleidin genaanbod in het HBO: Resource dependency versus de culturele theorie P aper presen ted at the Politicologenetmaal Doorn, The Netherlands van Heffen, O. Maassen, P., Verhoeven, J.C., de Vijlder, F., & De Wit K. (1999) Overheid, hoger onderwijs en econ omie. Ontwikkelingen in Nederland en Vlaanderen Utrecht: Lemma. van Heffen, O., Verhoeven, J. C. & De Wit K. (1999) Higher education policies and institutional response in Flanders: instrument al analysis and cultural theory In B. Jongbloed., P. Maasse n, & G. Neave (eds.) From the Eye of the Storm. Higher Education's Changing Institution (pp. 263 293) Dordrecht / Boston / London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 14 Van Vught, F.A. (1987). Innovations and Reforms in Higher Education. In F.A. Van Vught (ed.), Governmental Strategies and Innovation in Higher Education (pp. 47 72). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Verhoeven, J. (1982) Belgium : linguistic communalism bureaucratisation and democratisation. In H. Daalder & E. Shils (eds.) Universities, Poli ticians and Bureaucrats (pp. 125 171) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Verstegen, R. (1992 1993) De regelgeving van het onderwijs in de universiteiten van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsrecht en Onderwijsbeleid 1 18 32. Vlaam se Raad (1993 94). Ontwerp van decreet betreffende de hogescholen in de Vlaamse Gemeenschap. Stuk ken Vlaamse Raad Stuk 546 nr. 1 Wielemans, W. (1996 1997) Onderwijsbeleid tussen socia al democratie en neoliberalisme Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsrecht en Onderwijsbeleid 5 347 354. About the authors Kurt De Wit Department of Sociology Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Edward Van Evenstraat 2b 3000 Leuven (Belgium) Kurt De Wit is doctoral researcher at the KU Leuven (Belgium). As a member of the Centre for Sociology of Education (Department of Sociology) of this university, he is involved in research regarding education policy and the structure and functioning of higher education institutions. His publications include several articles and chapters on both F landers (Belgium) and the European Union, for instance in the European Journal of Education Higher Education Policy and Studies in Higher Education Jef C. Verhoeven Department of Sociology Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Edward Van Evenstraat 2b 3000 Le uven (Belgium) Jef C. Verhoeven is Professor of Sociology at the KU Leuven (Belgium) and Head of the Centre for Sociology of Education of the same university. He published in the field of sociology of education, and more specifically on higher education. Recently he conducted several projects on higher education in Belgium (amongst others, about merger in colleges of higher education, and about internationalisation and commercialisation of higher education in Belgium). He published several books, and arti cles in, among others, the European Journal of Education Journal of Education Policy Educational Management and Administration Teachers development Studies in Higher Education and Tsinghua Journal of Education


De Wit & Verhoeven: Quality assurance and governmental po licy in Flanders 15 Education Policy Analysis Archives http:// Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State University Production Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8528 7 2411. EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling Hammond Stanford University Sherman Dor n University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Unive risty Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute o f Technology Patricia Fey Jarvis Seattle, Washington Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs Pugh Green Mountain College Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Berkeley Michele Moses Arizona State University Gary Orfield Harvard University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Jay Paredes Scribner University of Missouri Michael Scriven Western Michigan University Lorrie A. Shepard University of Colorado, Boulder Robert E. Stake University of Illinois UC Kevin Welner University of Colorado, Boulder Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British Columbia


Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 12 No. 71 16 Archivos Analticos de Polticas Educativas Associate Editors Gustavo E. Fischman & Pablo Gentili Arizona State University & Universidade do E stado do Rio de Janeiro Founding Associate Editor for Spanish Language (1998 2003) Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Editorial Board Hugo Aboites Universidad Autnoma Metropolitana Xochimilco Adrin Acos ta Universidad de Guadalajara Mxico Claudio Almonacid Avila Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educacin, Chile Dalila Andrade de Oliveira Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brasil Alejandra Birgin Ministerio de Educacin, Argentina Teresa Bracho Centro de Investigacin y Docencia Econmica CIDE Alejandro Canales Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Ursula Casanova Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona Sigfredo Chiroque Instituto de Pedagoga Popular, Per Erwin Epstein Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois Mariano Fernndez Enguita Universidad de Salamanca. Espaa Gaudncio Frigotto Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Rollin Kent Universidad Autnoma de Pue bla. Puebla, Mxico Walter Kohan Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Roberto Leher Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Daniel C. Levy University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, New York Nilma Limo Gomes Universidade Federal de Minas Ge rais, Belo Horizonte Pia Lindquist Wong California State University, Sacramento, California Mara Loreto Egaa Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigacin en Educacin Mariano Narodowski Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina Iolanda de Oliveira Univ ersidade Federal Fluminense, Brasil Grover Pango Foro Latinoamericano de Polticas Educativas, Per Vanilda Paiva Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Miguel Pereira Catedratico Universidad de Granada, Espaa Angel Ignacio Prez Gmez Unive rsidad de Mlaga Mnica Pini Universidad Nacional de San Martin, Argentina Romualdo Portella do Oliveira Universidade de So Paulo Diana Rhoten Social Science Research Council, New York, New York Jos Gimeno Sacristn Universidad de Valencia, Espaa Daniel Schugurensky Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada Susan Street Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social Occidente, Guadalajara, Mxico Nelly P. Stromquist University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California Daniel Suarez Laboratorio de Politicas Publicas Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina Antonio Teodoro Universidade Lusfona Lisboa, Carlos A. Torres UCLA Jurjo Torres Santom Universidad de la Corua, Espaa

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