Thumbnail Image

Who does external quality assurance policy in Sāmoa serve, and who benefits?

Quality assurance has been described as the single most significant policy to have emerged in the higher education sector in recent times. This research critically examines the question of who is served by external quality assurance policy for higher education in Sāmoa through an examination of the voices and values that determine policy, how these shape policy relationships and how academics respond to external quality assurance policy. The conceptual framework for this research draws firstly on Kabini Sanga’s (2004) conceptualisation of indigenous Pacific research as having particularities in terms of ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology, secondly on aspects of critical realist theory; and subsequently on elements of postcolonial critique and critical policy studies. This research used thematic analysis and an emergent analytical and contextually relevant tool to interpret the research findings. The findings indicate firstly that four groups of policy actors influence decision-making on external quality assurance policy in Sāmoa. These groups include quality assurance policy officials as agents of the government, international consultants, university and academic leaders, and transnational quality assurance networks. Consultants and transnational quality assurance networks make up an influential part of the epistemic community that shapes how quality assurance policy officials think about quality assurance in higher education. Secondly, the ideal of international recognition and neoliberal management principles such as effectiveness, efficiency, compliance and accountability underpin Sāmoa’s external quality assurance policy, which is also marked by an absence of Sāmoa’s cultural values. The close connection to skills and employment as a driver of neoliberal economic growth is apparent in Sāmoa’s external quality assurance policy documents. This research suggests that the valorisation of the neoliberal values of effectiveness, efficiency, compliance and accountability in Sāmoa’s external quality assurance policy results in a hegemonic, disconnected and transactional relationship between the government and the university. Academics responded in various ways to external quality assurance policy. Their responses ranged from resistance to resignation to acceptance and affirmation. The reasons for acceptance by academics included the attraction of funding support, local and international recognition of qualifications, the perceived marketability of quality-assured status, and a sincere desire to improve the quality of their work. The reasons for resistance were influenced by a myriad of factors that can be categorised into relational aspects and value factors. The findings of this research suggest that external quality assurance policy for higher education in Sāmoa is primarily enacted to drive economic growth through efficient and effective skills development and the aspirational purposes of obtaining a better life for Sāmoan people through international and local recognition of higher education qualifications. Overall, it is not evident from this research that external quality assurance policy in Sāmoa serves the purpose of enhancing teaching and learning in higher education. The findings of this research have implications for how education policymakers in Sāmoa conceptualise policy solutions for quality higher education. This research directs attention to the need to conceptualise policy solutions that are framed within indigenous Sāmoan notions of quality and service for the Sāmoan people. Secondly, there are implications for considering alternative policy approaches that do not rest on neoliberal market principles but focus on social justice. Thirdly there are implications for rethinking the unrelenting drive for international recognition of Sāmoa’s qualifications in view of the discussion on the subsequent hegemony and disconnectedness between those who work in higher education and those who make policy decisions about higher education quality in Sāmoa.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.