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



Delegated accountaibility

core definition

Delegated accountability refer to the process of allowing institutions and higher education systems to take control of ensuring quality providing they are accountable to principle stakeholders, not least government.

explanatory context

The development of delegated accountability has been most evident in countries that had heavy government control of higher education. The trade-off ofr institutions in being given more autonomy is that they have to develop quality processes and accept being evaluated, assessed or otherwise monitored by external agencies.

analytical review

Harvey and Knight (1996) argue that:

the development of most systems of external evaluation has been a result of an initial pragmatic response to government mandates and systems then adapt and respond to changing situations. However, within this fluid situation, some common themes emerge, which suggests a convergence to a dominant form of accountable autonomy.… The systems that have traditionally espoused a market approach and those that have been influenced by the traditional British system of autonomous institutions supported by the state are finding their autonomy being eroded by government-backed requirements to demonstrate accountability and value for money…. Where central control was, or continues to be, exerted over higher education, for example in China, Eastern Europe, South America and Scandinavia, there has been increasing delegated responsibility for quality but at the price of being required to be accountable and open to scrutiny.


Delegated accountability also refers to delegation within an institution. For example, the University of Adelaide  (2005) notes that

the Academic Board now has delegated accountability from Council for the quality of academic programs within the institution.

associated issues

Harvey (2002) argues that:

in those countries where a new accountable autonomy is being granted, self-assessment is seen as indicative of the shift to self-governance. In those countries where universities have traditionally been autonomous, self-evaluation is seen as not only politically pragmatic but a necessary vehicle to ensure the institution focuses its attention on quality issues. Since the mid-1990s the basic convergence to delegated accountability has been augmented by two other trends. First, is the tendency for second-phase evaluations to focus on or emphasise improvement. In a few cases, …countries such as Sweden and Finland started with a clear improvement focus but the norm has been to prioritise accountability in the first phase. The second augmentation to the delegated accountability model is the current preoccupation with accreditation. This is driven by a growing internationalisation agenda.


The notion of delegated accountability is also used in relation to the autonomy to provide services at the point of use, such as student services:

A balance between central co-ordination of quality management and delegated accountability at the point of delivery. (EUA, 2004)

related areas

See also



EUA Quality Culture Project, 2004, Student Support Services, Torino, 18th September 2004, 2.06_Arcuri.1095871318966.ppt, no longer available at this address, 1 January 2012.

Harvey, L. &  Knight, P.,1996, Transforming Higher Education, Buckingham, Open University Press.

Harvey, L., 2002, ‘Quality assurance in higher education: some international trends’ keynote presentation at Higher Education Conference, Oslo, 22–23 January 2002, pp. 6–7 . Available here

University of Adelaide, 2005, Planning and Quality: Quality Assurance and Improvement: the University of Adelaide,, no longer available at this address, 1 January 2012.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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