Doctor of Philosophy
The main objective of this qualitative case study was to explore the professional experience of six faculty members and three administrators in higher education during a time of increasing quality assurance and accountability policies so to gain a deeper understanding of how neoliberalism is changing their work experience as academics in Ontario, Canada. I have presented the research findings by employing policy sociology as both theory and methodology using the method of the qualitative case study. This form of qualitative inquiry provided an opportunity to explore how each interviewee navigated the current context of neoliberalism within their respective roles in the university.
The findings from this study revealed that a critical analysis of policies regarding quality assurance and accountability in higher education must begin to take into consideration an account of the local and personal professional context that at present are eclipsed by neoliberal accountability discourses regarding what is valued as quality in higher education. This case study documented, analyzed, and critically engaged with how policies of quality assurance and accountability have created an increased sense of surveillance and performativity. The findings also suggest how the rise of datafication in the work of faculty members and administrators has placed higher education in Ontario, Canada on the slippery slope of performance based funding that has become increasingly standardized due to neoliberalism.
This dissertation critiques standardized neoliberal policies regarding what counts as quality assurance and accountability in higher education. Thus, this study holds significant implications for government and higher education institutions regarding quality assurance and accountability policies that promote performance based assessments and funding such as the recent Strategic Mandate Agreement in Ontario, Canada.
Summary for Lay Audience
This research investigated the experiences of faculty members and administrators with quality assurance and accountability in higher education in Ontario, Canada in the context of neoliberal accountability. Neoliberalism for the purpose of this study is broadly defined as the economization and marketization of all human endeavours. Higher education for the purpose of this dissertation refers to the university. The main theoretical and methodological concept used for this study is that of policy sociology. Policy sociology as both theory and methodology is useful for this study as it moves beyond quantifying the experience of educators to take into consideration the importance of how history, politics, and economics shape educational policy and the experiences of educators, all the while paying attention to the importance of context.
The findings of this dissertation suggest that policies for quality assurance and accountability have come to shape the work experience of those who participated in this case study, through an increased use of data by government and universities in Ontario, Canada. This data includes, but is not limited to: teaching evaluations provided annually by students, recorded number of citations, number of scholarly peer-reviewed articles published, and number of large-scale grants achieved. The findings from this research also revealed that the use of data in determining quality assurance and accountability has led to work intensification, feelings of surveillance, and performativity, which takes teaching in the university from being a performative act to evaluations based on performance.
Finally, this study examined the Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) in Ontario, Canada that places higher education (college and university) firmly on the neoliberal path of performance based funding. Performance based funding, which is based, but not limited to, access to higher education, retention of number of students who start and finish their program, number of students that graduate, and number of students who gain employment in their field of study six months after graduation and two-years after graduation. My findings provide a critique of neoliberal policies such as the Strategic Mandate Agreement arguing that the SMA will lead to a narrower understanding of quality and accountability in higher education.
This research study is intended to help us understand how the experiences of faculty members and administrators in higher education in Ontario, Canada are being shaped through quality assurance and accountability policies framed through market understandings and the consequences this holds regarding the work of faculty members, administrators, and the purpose of higher education.
Lawrence, Melanie, "Investigating the Experiences of Faculty Members and Administrators with Quality Assurance and Accountability in Higher Education in Ontario" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7649.