Theses Doctoral

The Logic of the Thai Higher Education Sector on Quality Assessment Policy

Sae-Lao, Rattana

Although the concept of quality has been an essential part of the higher education sector, the global quest for Quality Assessment (QA hereafter) has raised attention to quality to a new level. Van Vught and Westerheijden (1994) argue that the common charateristics of QA policy include: meta-level organization to conduct external evaluation, self-evaluation, peer review (site visits), published reports, and no link to public funding. Based on the document analysis, at least 48 countries established a meta-organization to implement QA between 1983 and 2010. This finding substantiates that QA has become a "global education policy." This term, coined by Verger et al. (2012), refers to "similar education reforms and a common set of education policy jargon [that] are being applied in many parts of the world" (p. 1). Influenced by policy borrowing and lending theory (Steiner-Khamsi, 2012), this dissertation was interested in understanding why a "global education policy" such as QA resonates in Thailand. Furthermore, it explored how the policy was introduced, implemented, and interpreted by the stakeholders within the higher education sector since its inception. This dissertation deployed a qualitative case study methodology with a triangulation of three methods to collect data: document analysis, 80 elite interviews, and a three-month internship at the Office of National Educational Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA).In 1994, QA was a topic of policy discussion within Thailand's higher education sector. However, it was not until 1999, with the promulgation of the National Education Act, that QA became a legal mandate for every institution. ONESQA, a public organization, was established in the year 2000 to be responsible for conducting external quality assessment. Comparing the timing of Thailand's institutionalization of QA to the international landscape, the country is considered to be a late adopter of the policy. Steiner-Khamsi (2006) aptly argued that a study of a late adopter is equivalent to a study on globalization.Why did a "global education policy" such as QA resonate in Thailand? It is argued that historical legacies of the Thai state, policy timing, and the policy belief systems of the policy elites help to explain the policy resonance and the introduction and implementation of QA in Thailand. Historically, the Thai elites have always, actively and purposefully, made reference to policies from elsewhere in order to legitimize national reform. The historical development of the Thai higher education sector is the case in point. While the establishment of universities during the early days of nation-building relied on European models, American models became the blueprint after the Second World War. QA resonated in Thailand because of this historically rooted logic of the Thai state that favored global trends. Policy timing was also an important factor. Given that QA was a byproduct of a sector-wide education reform, the Asian Economic Crisis provided a much needed "window of opportunity" to legitimize the new legal framework (Fry, 2000). The policy belief systems of Thai policy elites mattered. Through cross-sectoral borrowing, senior bureaucrats, university executives, and representatives from the private sector based QA on their professional experiences.How was QA introduced, implemented and interpreted within Thailand's higher education sector? The introduction of QA was perceived as an "irresistible global model/ trend" that Thailand needed to follow. The implementation of QA has been amalgamated within the existing hierarchy, seniority, and structure of Thailand. While QA policy was bureaucratized in every visited university through the creation of a central office, there has also been a professionalization of QA at extensive meetings, trainings, data collection, and self-assessment reports. The interpretation of QA differs depending on the type of institution, official position of each individual, and academic discipline. It is evident that university executives are more favorable to QA, while academics criticize QA for its abundant paperwork and question the link between quality education and quality assessment.This dissertation primarily contributes to the advancement of policy borrowing and lending theory. In addition to the politics and economics of borrowing, the case of Thailand elucidates the existence of a culture of borrowing. Thailand deploys externalization strategy to justify the locally and historically rooted logic and aspiration that becoming modern and adapted to global trends is a national necessity. By identifying the multiple faces of globalization and how it has been used as problem, policy, and politics, this dissertation also contributes to strengthening Comparative Policy Studies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Steiner-Khamsi, Gita
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 23, 2013