Understanding Quality: Examining Addis Ababa University Students’ Conceptualizations through the Harvey and Green (1993) Quality Framework

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Enguday Ademe


As elusive and contentious as the term quality is, according to Harvey and Green (1993), there are five ways of thinking about quality in higher education that are framed as exception, as perfection, as fitness for purpose, as value for money, and as transformation. Interpretations of quality in higher education vary depending on stakeholders’ views. Among the different stakeholders, the purpose of this study was to examine students’ conceptualizations of quality interpreted through the Harvey and Green (1993) quality framework. The study was qualitative thematic in its approach, and data were collected using feedback surveys. All the one hundred and eighty five first year graduate students, who were attending their coursework in 13 different fields located in eight of the 10 colleges in Addis Ababa University (AAU), filled the survey. From these respondents, a total of 283 replies were collected. Data were then thematically analyzed using percentages. The findings revealed that students define quality differently, and the term means different things even for the same student. However, their conceptualizations converge mostly around the quality as fitness for purpose category (especially as customer-determined fitness), followed by quality as exceptional (especially as excellence) and quality as transformative categories. It is recommended that AAU’s quality-related effort, quality as understood by students, needs to primarily deal with refining its services and enhancing graduate employability. This has to be followed by taking care of student admission, teacher recruitment criteria, and bringing long-lasting qualitative changes on the part of students for life beyond the university.


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Enguday Ademe

Addis Ababa University, College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Department of Curriculum and Instruction