Higher education quality assurance policy and practice in the Maldives : a case study from a small developing nation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis comprises a case study of quality assurance policy and practice in the emerging higher education sector of the Maldives. The policy analysis is extended to incorporate a glonacal perspective, allowing analysis of quality assurance policy issues from the global, national and local contexts. In order to illuminate the analysis in the Maldives' primary case study, two secondary less intensive case studies are presented of quality assurance processes from a New Zealand polytechnic and the University of the South Pacific. Documentary evidence and semi-structured interviews from Key Informants form the main evidence base for the study. Data analysis is facilitated using NVivo. The thesis argues that the upsurge in quality assurance in higher education is primarily legitimated within a neoliberal discourse, Urged by transnational organisations such as the World Bank, there is widespread policy convergence in quality assurance. Whilst neoliberalism has had partial effects in the case of the Maldives, the study reveals that neoliberal ideology and the associated strategies of marketisation, privatisation, human resource development and managerialism have shaped quality assurance policy processes in varying degrees in the three cases. Findings in this study contribute to a fuller understanding of quality assurance policy processes in a small developing nation context: a perspective largely missing from current debates on the subject. The findings confirm that a combination of global, national and institutional factors influenced quality assurance policy processes in the Maldives. From the global context, globalisation and internationalisation of higher education trends affect quality assurance policy. At the national level, the desire for higher quality education found expression in the state's reassertion of its role in protecting public interest in regulating the sector through formal quality assurance. The social demand for international comparability has also lead to a growing trend of transnational quality assurance practices. The creation of the Maldives College of Higher Education was shown to be the principal impetus in quality assurance development. This national college played a lead role in developing a quality assurance model that tends to promote a regulatory compliance to quality. The study argues for a more inclusive model that acknowledges external compliance but also seeks to assure quality of teaching and learning leading to improved student outcomes.