• Yuan Li

Student thesis: Phd


Chinese higher education (HE) has been through a process of profound restructuring, decentralisation, introduction of market incentives, university mergers, internationalisation, and enlarging student enrolment in the past two decades. Along with the expansion of Chinese HE, the issue of quality has become a concern and has attracted a lot of attention in the Chinese HE sector. Developing quality assurance (QA) systems has been given priority in the agenda of most Chinese higher education institutions (HEIs). The nationwide implementation of quality evaluation since 2002 is the main means used by the Chinese government to address the potential quality decline and to realise a macro level control of quality over Chinese HEIs. This study is conducted against the background of the prevailing quality culture, and focuses on student learning rather than the widely adopted top-down scrutiny of teaching as the main component of QA schemes. The purpose of this study is to explore how student learning experiences can be integrated into the QA systems in Chinese HEIs for continuous quality improvement. A qualitative case study approach is adopted in this study. Document analysis, focus groups, and in-depth interviews are used to achieve a comprehensive qualitative inquiry into student learning experiences, HEIs' QA practice, and the integration of student learning experiences into QA system. Through this study, we find that Chinese universities generally use regulations, teaching inspection/evaluation, and student feedback as the main approaches to manage their QA practice. There is great emphasis on the institutional management and teaching management, but little attention given to what students are actually doing. The analysis of the key issues in student learning experiences, the concept of quality learning, and the analysis of the objectives, control, areas, procedures and uses in the current Chinese QA systems suggest a discrepancy between student quality learning and what the current Chinese QA assures. The findings of this study imply that the current top-down QA has great limitations in addressing key issues in student learning and accordingly plays a limited role in generating educational quality. As the conclusion of this study, a learning-focused QA is proposed to offer insights into integrating student learning generically into the QA process for the purpose of the continuous improvement of HE quality.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMelvyn West (Supervisor) & Roland Muijs (Supervisor)


  • learning focused quality assurance
  • quality assurance
  • student learning
  • higher education
  • quality

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