Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, 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 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


Novel Recipes




core definition

Control is the process of regulating or otherwise keeping a check on developments in higher education.

explanatory context

Control is one of the purposes of quality processes. Control may be exercised across systems (or even transnationally) or within institutions. Usually control is directed to suppressing the growth of institutions or, within institutions, of programmes. Control is underpinned by a concern that unregulated growth may undermine higher education credibility or fail to meet social, cultural, economic or political requirements.


Quality evaluations can, for example, be used to control the growth of higher education providers, especially in systems where private provision is relatively easy to set up. It is thus closely tied to regulation and accreditation.


Within institutions control may be exercised over new programmes to ensure that, for example, there is a market demand for them.


There is also an issue of control in relation to checking the evaluators. INQAAHE (2001) also refer to this as oversight.


NB: control (as a purpose of quality evaluation) is different from quality control (as a technique (for checking quality at the end of a process))

analytical review

One exploration of control identified the growing use of quality processes to effect control:

In many countries, especially those with a significant public sector, governments seek to control unrestrained growth in higher education. They may do this via financial controls or ministerial decree but increasingly quality monitoring and accreditation are being used to restrict expansion. Linked to this is the perceived need to ensure the status and standing and legitimacy of higher education. External review is used to ensure that the principles and practices of higher education are not being eroded or flouted, thereby undermining the intrinsic quality of university-level education and research. Globalisation and the internationalisation of higher education, new forms of delivery, and an increasingly unrestricted market, are all features of a landscape that seems to be out of control. This has resulted in international as well as national attempts to control higher education. The control aspect of quality evaluation specifically addresses the comparability of standards: that is, the standard or level of student academic or professional achievement, nationally and internationally. Attempts have been made to ‘benchmark’ academic standards including: externally-set and marked examinations; specification of the content of syllabuses; (threshold) descriptors of outcomes; external examiners to ensure inter-institutional comparability of awards. The use of external examiners, for example, is well-established in some countries as a means of making comparisons between programmes within subject disciplines. (Harvey & Newton, 2004)

Rosa et al. (2012), dicussing the purposes of quality assurance, state:

Control: One of the aims of quality assessment is to provide feedback, so that measures can be taken. This requires a control loop, complete with measures, targets, means of verification, feedback mechanisms and ways to take appropriate action. This can be used to ensure consistent quality, not only within a department but also across a university or a higher education system. What often fails in control mechanisms is the action part. Having measures, targets and information systems in place is no guarantee of action.

associated issues

related areas

See also



quality control



Harvey, L. and Newton, J., 2004,  ‘Transforming quality evaluation’, Quality in Higher Education, 10(2), pdf available here.

International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), 2001, Annex: Clarification and Glossary, to a questionnaire conducted in December, 2001. This is no longer the site of INQAAHE, document not accessible online 4 February 2011 but can be seen here.

Rosa, M.J, Sarrico, C.S and Amaral, A., 2012, 'Academics’ perceptions on the purposes of quality assessment', Quality in Higher Education, 18(3).

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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