Economic, societal, and legislative pressures have put the issue of quality in higher education and its assurance as a foremost priority for both governments and providers of higher education, which is manifested in the establishment of agencies and systems for evaluating and assuring quality at institutional, national, and international levels. The internationally acceptable generic model for a national quality assurance framework (Van Vught and Westerheijden, 1993) is not a one-size-fits-all model and requires adaptation and contextualization according to the host nation (Kells, 1999).
This study presents and examines a conceptual model that lays the foundation and developing guidelines for a context-specific quality assurance framework for Lebanon. It proposes and utilizes a number of principals that underpin this conceptual model. These principals define the scope of the framework and its implementation, while emphasizing a number of “imperatives” that the framework needs to adopt in order to thrive including but not limited to autonomy, independence, and a transformative quality approach.
The study utilizes a qualitative research method through semi-structured interviews with eighteen academic leaders, policy makers, and experts representing the major stakeholders of the higher education sector in Lebanon. The study examines the proposed conceptual model in light of the stakeholder input and offers careful analysis of the data collected bringing new insights into the development of a national quality assurance framework.
The study analyzes the quality assurance functions of self-evaluation, peer-review, and judgment evaluation within the Lebanese context and defines the scope of the proposed framework within them in addition to defining the role of the quality assurance agency in implementing them. While focusing on ensuring a balanced approach of self-improvement and accountability, encouraging higher education autonomy, and enhancing self-regulation of the higher education sector through competiveness, awareness, and empowerment of the public.
The study proposes a strategy for the development of the framework and outlines an action plan for its short-term implementation, thus allowing the intended national quality assurance agency to adopt the proposed framework and employ the development strategy and applicable implementation roadmap.
Keywords: quality assurance and accreditation; self-improvement; accountability; higher education self-regulation; contextualization