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V3I1: NWCCU Quality Culture project

By: Alana Hoare, Quality Assurance & ALO, Thompson Rivers University and Pamela Goad, Executive Vice President, NWCCU

In Fall 2019, we embarked on an ambitious project to study factors that positively and negatively impact a culture of quality in NWCCU membership institutions. A culture of quality is defined as a culture “in which structural/managerial and cultural/psychological elements act in synergy to continuously improve education” (Bendermacher, Egbrink, Wolfhagen & Dolmans, 2016, p.39). In an environment in which available resources never satisfy need and where institutions are continually required to justify their worth, a myth of efficiency can drive an overreliance on available and easily digestible metrics to define quality and student success. Political and consumer cultures rely heavily on ranking systems and comparative benchmarking to inform their understanding of academic quality. What can higher education leaders do to ensure performance measurement systems include measures that address equity, enhance participatory processes, and inform policy change that is relevant to organizational context?

The NWCCU Quality Culture project involves a systematic literature review and mixed-methods research (survey and focus groups) guided by interpretivist cultural theory, which strives to understand how meaning is constructed, how understanding is developed, and consequently how a culture of learning is achieved. Moreover, we seek to broaden market-driven conceptions of performance measurement to be more inclusive and culturally appropriate. To that end, we are gathering quantitative survey results and qualitative narratives to analyze individual perceptions and institutional approaches to accreditation efforts.

We will be conducting a survey this Fall 2020 term to follow-up on work which began in the March 2020 workshops that will be launched mid September. The survey results will be analyzed along with narratives from upcoming virtual focus groups, and if requested, each survey respondent will be provided an institutional-type comparison report based on a summary of the survey and focus group results. The survey closes on October 10, 2020.

For more details about the NWCCU Quality Culture Project, and to request the link for the survey, please contact Ms. Alana Hoare ( or Pamela Goad (


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