Cross-border higher education and quality management: the applicability of the retrospective customer model in managing quality in transnational higher education partnerships

Tsiligiris, Vangelis Cross-border higher education and quality management: the applicability of the retrospective customer model in managing quality in transnational higher education partnerships. Doctoral thesis, Birimgham City University.

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Abstract

Several dynamics have contributed to the increasing conception of higher education as a service, universities as service providers, students as customers and quality as value for money. Quality management has been pursued as a means to promote accountability and is primarily driven by student satisfaction surveys. This has resulted in the dominance of the retrospective customer model for the management of quality in higher education (Biggs, 2001) with emphasis on accountability and ‘value for money’ for the student customer.

At the same time, decreasing public funding and a growing student demand for higher education programmes has increased the provision of programmes across borders. This has increased cross-border education activities, which involve the movement of people, institutions and programmes across borders. The latter, termed transnational education, happens when higher education institutions collaborate with institutions in other countries to offer their programmes offshore by forming transnational education partnerships.

The current quality management model in transnational education partnerships is dominated by concentration on ‘risk mitigation’ for exporting countries and ‘sameness’ of quality standards between ‘home’ and ‘offshore’ provisions. This is pursued by the exporting country’s retrospective customer model, which takes no consideration of the difference of student expectations and perceptions in different locations of programme delivery. Thus, the applicability of the retrospective customer model in TNHE can be problematic, owing to the fact that students who study in different parts of the world on the same programme are very likely to have different expectations and perceptions of quality in higher education.

The purpose of this thesis was to explore the applicability of the retrospective customer model and to propose a prospective model for the management of quality in TNHE partnerships.

The research is pursued within a Critical Realist theoretical paradigm, considering that students, irrespective of their location, will form common expectations and perceptions independently of their own interpretations, but at the same time will be impacted, to a significant extent, by the deeper social and cultural dynamics of a particular time and space. The research strategy deployed in this thesis is a case study, using a mixed methods sequential design including a questionnaire survey followed by individual semi-structured interviews as the data collection methods.
The analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data showed that students appear to share a common ‘customer’ identity which is shaped by the prevailing quality discourse 2 in higher education. However, students appear to be immature as customers, contrary to the assumption made within the current quality discourse about students being rational decision agents. Students, irrespective of their location, seem to be less aware of the transformative role of higher education and appear to develop an instrumental approach in regard to their expectations and perceptions of quality in higher education.

The analysis of the data also showed that the expectations and perceptions of students who are studying on the same programme but at different geographical locations vary. Specifically, it was found that student expectations and perceptions are shaped by a range of contextual dynamics. A conceptual framework has emerged from the findings of the research which can be used as a framework for the analysis, discussion and evaluation of student expectations and perceptions in a TNHE context.

The findings of the research have significant ramifications for the applicability of the retrospective customer model in TNHE relating to both service quality (student satisfaction) and educational quality. Specifically, the findings of this thesis suggest that a retrospective customer model which has been designed in one country using the local contextual dynamics would not be applicable in another country without modifications and adjustments. Instead, the research justifies and proposes the adoption of a prospective model for the management of quality in TNHE which enables the acknowledgement and management of student expectations and perceptions prior to academic delivery.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: X300 Academic studies in Education
X900 Others in Education
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
UoA Collections > PhD Theses Collection
Depositing User: Mr Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2017 10:28
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2017 10:28
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4851

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