Opportunity or Exploitation: Women and Quality Assurance in Higher Education

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Morley, L. (2005)

Based on interviews with 18 UK women academics and managers on quality and power in higher education, this article interrogates the impact of quality assurance discourses and practices on women in higher education. Micro-level analysis of the effects of audit and the evaluative state seem to suggest that hegemonic masculinities and gendered power relations are being reinforced by the emphasis on competition, targets, audit trails and performance (Morley, 2003a). Furthermore, pedagogic space for exploring social justice issues is closing with the emphasis on learning outcomes and student consumerism (Morley, 2003b). Yet women are also gaining new visibility as a consequence of the creation of a new cadre of quality managers. Quality assurance, as a regime of power, appears to offer both repressive and creative potential for women. This article will explore whether quality signs and practices are gendered and whether these represent opportunity or exploitation for women in the academy.
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