Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-17, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2017.


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core definition

Cloisterism is a conservative, defensive and isolationist type of collegialism that is usually inward-looking and elitist.

explanatory context


analytical review

Harvey (1995, p. 136) states:

Cloisterism is about the reaffirmation of the power of the scholar. It attempts to reassert the centrality of academic autonomy. It sees the 'college' as a bastion within which scholars are united in their desire to ensure their academic freedom and individual autonomy. Scholars emphasise the absolute right of the collegial group to make decisions relating to academic matters, regards the integrity of members as inviolable (except where exceptionally challenged from within), and considers the role of group as that of developing and defending its specialist realm, which is usually discipline-based. Cloisterism tends to be staff-directed, producer-oriented and research-dominated.


Luckett (2006) states:

Cloisterism is likely to adopt a connoiseurial model [of quality assurance] based on peer review. In this form of evaluation the criteria remain implicit and evaluators (academics) make subjective judgments on the basis of expertise and experience.

associated issues

The cloisterist response to external quality monitoring is to equate it with the growth of managerialism. This has led to widespread cynicism, resentment and lack of trust amongst some academics. One reaction has been further retrenchment and reification of cloisterism through increased demands for academic freedom (McConkey, 1994), calls to maintain an elite set of institutions (Hughes, 1994; THES, 1994) or the concentration of research monies in 'established' institutions (Wojtas, 1994).  (Harvey, 1995).

Referring to the situation in Sweden in the late 1990s, Niklasson (1998) argues that 'audits were introduced in Sweden in an effort to foster self-regulation by the universities when central regulation was decreased in 1993. It was believed that internal systems of quality assurance were the optimal means for increased quality and efficiency of Swedish universities and university colleges' and there was a change of 'the internal culture of the universities, from ‘cloisterism’ to ‘new collegiality’'. He goes on 'In line with neo-institutionalism, new behaviour was to be stimulated by new institutions. In other words, audits were to change the incentives and increase the rewards for proponents of change. The struggle for change could be understood as a game-like situation, where audits affect pay-offs. The adoption of new means of internal quality assurance is used as a measurement for the spread of the new culture.' He adds that 'data from six institutional audits indicate that a ‘cultural revolution’ is taking place and that audits are enhancing it'.

related areas

See also


new collegialism


Harvey, L., 1995, ‘ Beyond TQM', Quality in Higher Education, 1(2), pp. 123–46, pdf available here.

Hughes, 1994, 'Bedrock of elitism survives reform', Times Higher Education Supplement, 18 November,
p. 10.

Luckett, K.M., 2006, The Quality Assurance of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in South Africa: an analysis of national policy development and stakeholder response, PhD Dissertation, University of Stellenbosch, available via, accessed 21 January 2012, still available 31 December 2016.

McConkey, 1994, 'Keepers of the olive grove', Times Higher Education Supplement, 25 November, p. 15.

Niklasson, L., 1998, 'A Cultural Revolution in the Universities The Possible Uses of Rational Choice Models', Evaluation 4(3), pp. 278–93

Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), 1994, Editorial, 'Quality and equity puzzle', Times Higher
Education Supplement
, 14 October, p. 9.

Wojtas, 1994, 'Elite group defend role', Times Higher Education Supplement, 16 December, p. 3.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2017

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