University stakeholders' perceptions of quality assurance reforms in Pakistan : the role of borrowing policy

  • Abdul Wali KHAN

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (Lingnan)


Globalization and governments are demanding for effectiveness and efficiency in higher education. Universities have structurally been reformed to document improvement in performance and are held accountable for government support and private investment. Quality Assurance (QA) mechanisms, as evidence of educational excellence, became prevalent in many developing countries in the 1990s and 2000. QA in higher education is essential for university ranking systems, accountability and internal homogenization. When reforming higher education, borrowing other nations’ practices/quality standards is common and complex for learning and improving.

Aligned with the global development of quality reforms, Pakistan, as an aid recipient and colonized country, has reformed its higher education by establishing Quality Assurance Agency under the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Guided by global quality standards, the HEC has issued a quality assurance manual and implemented the contents in public universities through Quality Enhancement Cell to ensure their internal quality matters.

Extant literature discusses key stakeholders’ positive and negative perceptions of developing and practicing quality assurance policies. The literature is silent on policymakers’ perceptions of borrowing global best practices while developing QA policies and faculty perspectives about adhering to the QA policy in quality assurance's teaching and learning component. This qualitative case study explores the perceptions and practices of higher education stakeholders (Policymakers, faculty members and administrators) on quality assurance reforms from the lens of policy borrowing. It focuses on understanding the impact of developing a quality assurance manual and its implementation in teaching and learning in one public university. The policy borrowing and lending, glonacal and quality models served as a theoretical framework. Data was collected from 27 participants, including policymakers, faculty members and administrators. Additionally, a careful review of the QA manual was conducted in order to frame interview questions and examine the extent to which the manual suggestions and requirements were upheld during implementation. The data were analyzed through a thematic analysis procedure supported with the data organization software NVivo.

Analysis revealed polarized views on borrowing global best practices/ quality standards. Favourable views included that borrowing good policies are beneficial, research and result oriented, and have spread internationally and adopting them could help improve local practices. Further, the best practices yielded better results if adapted and contextualized to fulfil the local needs, values and culture. Opposing views included that borrowing external practices and policies contradicts the local context and leads to dependency on Western knowledge, which hinders local scholars from producing local knowledge and models. These participants suggested that QA policies were, centralized, contextual and predominantly adapted from UK QA standards. Social, economic and religious factors affect quality policy development and implementation.

The study explored participants' views on how quality assurance bears on teaching and learning. They conceptualized it as minimum standards, quantity, purpose and excellence for students’ learning. However, the existing quality standards have less focus on improving teaching. Conflicting views emerged between policymakers and the faculty members on who and how QA policy was developed. The policymakers argued that HEC developed the quality assurance manual involving professors and subject specialists with robust faculty participation. In contrast, the faculty reported little participation and argued that they acted as implementors and had little/ no roles in policy decisions and formulation. Although participation was lacking in the development of the policy, faculty were active implementors of QA standards in daily teaching, course design and evaluation of students’ learning. Implementation of QA was challenging due to the lack of resources, faculty training lack of local QA model, enrolment of students without test and lack of seriousness about the self-assessment practices of quality assurance which complicates whether QA has improved teaching and learning.

The findings imply that HEC may need to modify the current policy toward a more inclusive and contextually relevant QA model with an international outlook. They could benefit from the development of widespread training, allocate sufficient resources for effective quality implementation, and align QEC functions smoothly focusing on teaching and learning to have a robust quality culture in the university.
Date of Award8 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorPadmore Adusei AMOAH (Supervisor) & Angela Yung-chi HOU (Co-supervisor)

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