What are the logics of quality assurance in international joint degree programmes? by Gaoming Zheng, Yuzhuo Cai, Shaozhuang Ma


In the global context of higher education, international joint programmes is a popular and important strategic approach to develop collaborative partnership between institutions, enhance students’ and staff mobility and contribute to joint research and knowledge production. However, as the stakeholders of an international joint programme are from different contexts with different educational practices, the quality of the programme is often a concern for the public. Questions concerning quality, such as ‘in what way can the quality in international joint programmes be defined’, ‘who is responsible for the quality’, ‘how can quality be assured’ are raised constantly and often remained unanswered, thus increasing the challenges in the development and organization of the programmes.

One important starting point to assure the quality of international joint programmes is to first understand the nature of quality itself and of quality assurance system in the international joint programmes.

Therefore, in our paper ‘Towards an analytical framework for understanding the development of a quality assurance system in an international joint programme’ published in European Journal of Higher Education, we provide a novel framework for analysing quality of higher education and quality assurance in international joint programme by  employing insights from institutional theory and innovation studies. We also apply the framework to analyse an international joint doctoral degree programme between China and Portugal.

The study reveals three important issues:

First, while the concept of quality of higher education has been commonly understood as being difficult to define, there are five underlying institutional logics aligning with the different concepts of quality, namely profession logic, state logic, bureaucratic state logic, democracy logic, market logic, and corporation logic.

Second, when a quality assurance system is established in an international joint programme, institutional logics respectively associated with each educational providers will form a new constellation of logics. The development of quality assurance system in the joint international programmes is a process of reconciling different institutional logics.

Third, the development/institutionalisation of a quality assurance system in an international joint programme is affected by three key factors, namely compatibility, profitability and agency of institutional entrepreneurs.

By understanding these, some more effective approaches can be adopted to assure the quality of international joint programmes in general, such as nourishing quality culture, valuing students’ and supervisors’ needs, standardizing the managerial behaviours of quality and so on. In so doing, the development of international joint programmes can be sustainable.


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