Benchmarking Academic Standards : A Policy Trajectory Study.

Royle, F (2006) Benchmarking Academic Standards : A Policy Trajectory Study. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Perspective: This study is concerned with a specific HE policy arising from the National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE): the benchmarking of academic standards initiative. It is concerned to scrutinise the inception, articulation, progress and implementation of the policy initiative. The study is concerned to explore the distinctive policy process of the benchmarking initiative and through that to discover more about the policy process generally. In this endeavour social science theoretical debates and, to a lesser extent, theoretic debates in other disciplines - notably overseas development studies - are drawn upon. A backdrop to the progression of the benchmarking of academic standards initiative is the recognition that educational policy is frequently the terrain on which contestation between the state and higher education is played out. The state's interest in HE policy is noted to be constrained and to focus upon: • the need to support the capital accumulation process; • the need to guarantee a context for its continued expansion; • the need to legitimate the capitalist mode of production including the state's own part in it. The state's recurring policy interest in higher education within the above context is acknowledged to be the potential contribution of higher education to manpower planning and accumulation of capital. Quite separate from the contestation being played out at the macro level are other disputes and challenges played out within the microcosm of the policy process itself. The most potent of these can arise from different ideological perspectives, both articulated and tacit, represented within the policy process. These exert forces which combine to neutralise some potential options and consequently, to constrain outcomes. Method: The study adopts the form of a policy trajectory study to examine each stage of the policy process. The policy trajectory uses the metaphor of the staircase as a simplifying organisational device to mark out the different phases of the trajectory. This does not imply that the policy trajectory progressed in a measured and regular way with ordered, staged progression to reach the outcome. Indeed the trajectory reveals that at different stages, distinctive social processes were at work and that contestation and ideological difference between stages militated against such ordered progression. The policy trajectory focuses upon the key texts published throughout the period of the trajectory to articulate the purpose, and amended purpose of the policy initiative, upon interviews with participants in the policy process, and upon a questionnaire sent to university departments. There was a critical, interrogative reading of such key texts, and analysis and interrogation of interviews and questionnaires. The policy trajectory is thus able to illuminate competing ideologies, emergent issues, compromise and adjustment, to build a picture of their combined effect on the policy process, in particular to deflect the policy intention and to reconstitute it in an altered manifestation. That the policy process can be 'disturbed' through changes in the external environment is also recognised and the relationship to the respective stages of the policy process of such external disturbances are referenced and evaluated. Rationale: The benchmarking of academic standards initiative has been selected for this study because its publicly stated intention was not realised in what was subsequently implemented. The progress of the policy has been characterised by modifications and adjustments to that stated purpose. The policy initiative utilised considerable higher education resources in its construction and implementation. Conclusion: The suite of actions implemented as a result of the policy initiative on academic benchmarking did not address those specific issues which originally brought the matter to the policy agenda. This finding raised the need for explanations in respect of the policy being scrutinised but also raised questions more generally about the management of HE policy at national level. In particular the apparent absence of any strategies within policy management to recognise and respond when policy intentions become seriously compromised through the policy development and implementation process itself. Finally the study returns to consider implications for conceptualisations of the policy process at macro level and makes a number of suggestions for improvements for the management of the policy process, capable of improving adherence of policy outcomes to policy objectives.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2006.
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Deposited On:
02 May 2019 16:28
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:34