1 - Context (national and local)
Quality projects vary according to the political/economic conditions in a given country or region and the existing higher education systems.
It is important to know the exact socio-economic and political context in which the university functions. It may be that:
- The State or the Region exercises a strict control
- The University tends to be market-oriented
- The academic world enjoys room for manoeuvre in its strategic choices
The institutional context also plays a determining role in the launching, monitoring and long-term establishment of a quality management project. For example, if a university is committed to a self-evaluation process, the continuing education quality project will probably be included in this process. But it could also happen that this project is spontaneously initiated by a service or department of continuing education without any official requirement for it.
2 - The dynamics which trigger quality projects
The underlying dynamics fall into three broad categories, which may operate on their own, or be interlocking. They may be associated with:
This is internal to the continuing education structure and the university, but external in that the compulsion comes from the organs of government.
Arising from the development of projects and strategic objectives such as university aims or action plans as well as the availability of new methods and financial and staff resources.
Arising from observation of aspects of the environment, such as policy trends or competition, acknowledged disfunctions, or the results of audits or enquiries.
Sometimes there is pressure of competition from other continuing education organisations outside the university. Quality management may also be seen as a marketing tool, or as a means of co-ordinating or harmonising practices within the university. It may also be an object for the continuing education service to become more visible within the university. It is clear from the experiences reported by the partners that quality management projects are very often set in motion by more than one of these triggers.
3 - Demand and contracts
In some circumstances it is possible set up a quality project may be set up which is not the result of an obligation or a contract but which, nevertheless, seeks to address current public policy agendas. In other circumstances there is more or less obvious demand which guides those in charge of projects towards objectives requiring analysis relevant to a particular field of action, i.e. academic quality as it concerns the education and training of adults. Regulatory obligations often entail projects of the "periodic review" type. On the other hand, client-oriented projects allow the development of processes that are capable of lasting over time. These two different approaches may nevertheless co-exist and interact over time.